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

2. Who Are Their Pupils?

1 Certain pupils have been assigned to each of God's teachers, and they will begin to look for him as soon as he has answered the Call. They were chosen for him because the form of the universal curriculum that he will teach is best for them in view of their level of understanding. His pupils have been waiting for him, for his coming is certain. Again, it is only a matter of time. Once he has chosen to fulfill his role, they are ready to fulfill theirs. Time waits on his choice but not whom he will serve. When he is ready to learn, the opportunities to teach will be provided for him.

2 In order to understand the teaching-learning plan of salvation, it is necessary to grasp the concept of time which the course sets forth. Atonement corrects illusions, not the truth. Therefore it corrects what never was. Further, the plan for this correction was established and completed simultaneously, for the Will of God is entirely apart from time. So is all reality, being of Him. The instant the idea of separation entered the mind of God's Son, in that same instant was God's Answer given. In time this happened very long ago. In reality it never happened at all.

3 The world of time is the world of illusion. What happened long ago seems to be happening now. Choices made long since appear to be open, yet to be made. What has been learned and understood and long ago passed by is looked upon as a new thought, a fresh idea, a different approach. Because your will is free, you can accept what has already happened at any time you choose, and only then will you realize that it was always there. As the course emphasizes, you are not free to choose the curriculum or even the form in which you will learn it. You are free, however, to decide when you want to learn it. And as you accept it, it is already learned.

4 Time really, then, goes backward to an instant so ancient that it is beyond all memory and past even the possibility of remembering. Yet because it is an instant that is relived again and again and still again, it seems to be now. And thus it is that pupil and teacher seem to come together in the present, finding each other as if they had not met before. The pupil comes at the right time to the right place. This is inevitable because he made the right choice in that ancient instant which he now relives. So has the teacher, too, made an inevitable choice out of an ancient past. God's Will in everything but seems to take time in the working-out. What could delay the Power of eternity?

5 When pupil and teacher come together, a teaching-learning situation begins. For the teacher is not really the one who does the teaching. God's Teacher speaks to any two who join together for learning purposes. The relationship is holy because of that purpose, and God has promised to send His Spirit into any holy relationship. In the teaching-learning situation, each one learns that giving and receiving are the same. The demarcations they have drawn between their roles, their minds, their bodies, their needs, their interests, and all the differences they thought separated them from one another fade and grow dim and disappear. Those who would learn the same course share one interest and one goal. And thus he who was the learner becomes a teacher of God Himself, for he has made the one decision that gave his teacher to him. He has seen in another person the same interests as his own.

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A Course in Miracles

3. What Are The Levels of Teaching?

1 The teachers of God have no set teaching level. Each teaching-learning situation involves a different relationship at the beginning, although the ultimate goal is always the same—to make of the relationship a holy relationship in which both can look upon the Son of God as sinless. There is no one from whom a teacher of God cannot learn, so there is no one whom he cannot teach. However, from a practical point of view, he cannot meet everyone, nor can everyone find him. Therefore, the plan includes very specific contacts to be made for each teacher of God. There are no accidents in salvation. Those who are to meet will meet because together they have the potential for a holy relationship. They are ready for each other.

2 The simplest level of teaching appears to be quite superficial. It consists of what seem to be very casual encounters—a chance meeting of two apparent strangers in an elevator, a child who is not looking where he is going running into an adult "by accident," two students who happen to walk home together. These are not chance encounters. Each of them has the potential for becoming a teaching-learning situation. Perhaps the seeming strangers in the elevator will smile to one another; perhaps the man will not scold the child for bumping into him; perhaps the students will become friends. Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come.

3 It is difficult to understand that levels of teaching the universal course is a concept as meaningless in reality as is time. The illusion of one permits the illusion of the other. In time, the teacher of God seems to begin to change his mind about the world with the single decision, and then learns more and more about the new direction as he teaches it. We have covered the illusion of time already, but the illusion of levels of teaching seems to be something different. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate that these levels cannot exist is simply to say that any level of the teaching-learning situation is part of God's plan for Atonement, and His plan can have no levels, being a reflection of His Will. Salvation is always ready and always there. God's teachers work at different levels, but the result is always the same.

4 Each teaching-learning situation is maximal in the sense that each person involved will learn the most that he can from the other person at that time. In this sense, and in this sense only, we can speak of levels of teaching. Using the term in this way, the second level of teaching is a more sustained relationship in which for a time two people enter into a fairly intense teaching-learning situation and then appear to separate. As with the first level, these meetings are not accidental, nor is what appears to be the end of the relationship a real end. Again, each has learned the most he can at the time. Yet all who meet will someday meet again, for it is the destiny of all relationships to become holy. God is not mistaken in His Son.

5 The third level of teaching occurs in relationships which, once they are formed, are lifelong. These are teaching-learning situations in which each person is given a chosen learning partner who presents him with unlimited opportunities for learning. These relationships are generally few because their existence implies that those involved have reached a stage simultaneously in which the teaching-learning balance is actually perfect. This does not mean that they necessarily recognize this; in fact, they generally do not. They may even be quite hostile to each other for some time, and perhaps for life. Yet should they decide to learn it, the perfect lesson is before them and can be learned. And if they decide to learn that lesson, they become the saviors of the teachers who falter and may even seem to fail. No teacher of God can fail to find the Help he needs.

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A Course in Miracles

Part II
What is the Ego?

1 The ego is idolatry—the sign of limited and separated self, born in a body, doomed to suffer and to end its life in death. It is the will that sees the Will of God as enemy and takes a form in which It is denied. The ego is the "proof" that strength is weak and love is fearful, life is really death, and what opposes God alone is true.

2 The ego is insane. In fear it stands beyond the Everywhere, apart from All, in separation from the Infinite. In its insanity it thinks it has become a victor over God Himself, and in its terrible autonomy, it "sees" the Will of God has been destroyed. It dreams of punishment and trembles at the figures in its dreams, its enemies who seek to murder it before it can ensure its safety by attacking them.

3 The Son of God is egoless. What can he know of madness and the death of God when he abides in Him? What can he know of sorrow and of suffering when he lives in eternal joy? What can he know of fear and punishment, of sin and guilt, of hatred and attack when all there is surrounding him is everlasting peace, forever conflict-free and undisturbed in deepest silence and tranquillity?

4 To know Reality is not to see the ego and its thoughts, its works, its acts, its laws and its beliefs, its dreams, its hopes, its plans for its salvation, and the cost belief in it entails. In suffering, the price for faith in it is so immense that crucifixion of the Son of God is offered daily at its darkened shrine and blood must flow before the altar where its sickly followers prepare for death.

5 Yet will one lily of forgiveness change the darkness into light, the altar to illusions to the shrine of Life Itself. And peace will be restored forever to the holy minds which God created as His Son, His dwelling-place, His joy, His love, completely His, completely one with Him.

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A Course in Miracles

Lesson 338
I am affected only by my thoughts.

1 It needs but this to let salvation come to all the world. For in this single thought is everyone released at last from fear. Now he has learned that no one frightens him and nothing can endanger him. He has no enemies, and he is safe from all external things. His thoughts can frighten him, but since these thoughts belong to him alone, he has the power to change them and exchange each fear thought for a happy thought of love. He crucified himself. Yet God has planned that His beloved Son will be redeemed.

2 Your plan is sure, my Father—only Yours. All other plans will fail. And I will have thoughts that will frighten me until I learn that You have given me the only Thought which leads me to salvation. Mine alone will fail and lead me nowhere. But the Thought You gave me promises to lead me home, because it holds Your promise to Your Son.

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ACIM Edmonton
Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 338
I am affected only by my thoughts.

 Sarah's Commentary:
I am reflecting today on all the things in my life that I think affect me. It is immensely empowering to realize that none of them have any real effect on me at all. The only reason anything outside of my mind affects me is because I am giving meaning to what has no meaning. Only my thoughts about what is happening around me affect me. Yet, although my thoughts can frighten me, I have the power to "exchange each fear thought for a happy thought of love." (W.338.1.5) My mood is established entirely by me, according to the nature of my thoughts and beliefs. While this is the truth for all of us, clearly, it is not yet our experience, but it is certainly a powerful goal worth pursuing.
Events come and go in our lives. We are plagued by problems, people, and situations that are difficult and can be extremely aggravating. We may feel hijacked by an unexpected conversation, an email, or a phone call that triggers a defensive emotional reaction. At such times, we seem to lose our emotional center. We may feel angry, which is the ego's idea of "self-protection." It is a defense that we turn to in the belief that it will keep us from being dominated or controlled; but whether we react outwardly or have inward conflict, it is the same. Our lesson is to come to the place where, "no one frightens him, and nothing can endanger him. He has no enemies, and he is safe from all external things." (W.338.1.3-4) No matter what the situation is, or how I might react to it, this is still the truth to be accepted. Nothing outside my mind is the cause of my grief.
I can choose not to give these events any power. They only affect me if I have a story around them where I see myself as victimized and justify a defensive or attacking response. Any pain these events seem to create for me is an opportunity to do self-inquiry about what purpose is served by what I tell myself about any situation. What payoff do I get from my story? When I keep the story, it serves the ego and seems to get me something I want, whether it is my idea of love, attention, sympathy, revenge, power, independence, control, cleverness, or domination. We get a secret pleasure from being victimized, which means that now we can hold the other as the guilty party while we maintain a pseudo-innocence. " And while you think that suffering and sin will bring you joy, so long will they be there for you to see." (T.25.IV.2.2) (ACIM OE T.25.V.33) In other words, we gladly suffer at their hands so they can be accused of our sin as we proclaim, " Behold me, brother, by your hand I die." (T.27.I.IV.4.6) (ACIM OE T.27.II.4) What this means is that we can point a finger at whomever we see as responsible for our suffering and pain.
The ego uses many strategies to deal with fear. We may try to gain in a number of ways at our brother’s expense through power struggles, right-fighting, sacrificing, projecting guilt, and maximizing opportunities. Ultimately, they are all strategies to keep us from the love we are and to keep us invested in the illusion. The dream becomes all important as does our part in it. We are making it real. Bringing awareness to our motivation to hold onto our story can assist in uncovering the choices we are making that conspire against our happiness and, ultimately, against remembering who we really are.
The lack of peace we feel points to the thoughts we stubbornly hold onto. If we allow ourselves to connect deeply with the pain rather than avoiding, justifying, spiritualizing, or denying it, we can surrender it by looking at it with Jesus. When we look with him, we are looking without judgment because he shines his love on our illusions and shows us their unreality. All our strategies are lies that we tell ourselves to support the thoughts we hold in the mind. We see what we choose to see. " You will rejoice at what you see because you see it to rejoice." (T.25.IV.2.1) (ACIM OE T.25.V.33) This is the law of perception. It all starts in our own mind and is projected out. Our stories reflect our view of the world and our concepts about ourselves.
When we stop investing in our beliefs that the way we see things is the way they are, we can start to question our thoughts, our beliefs, and our values. When we experience the holy instant, then the events of our lives that we previously defined as problems and aggravations may still be there, but the suffering we experienced as a result of these events is no longer felt. To experience emotions around any situation, we have to want to play with the emotions. We have to want to hold onto our story about the situation. If there is suffering for you, you can be assured you are holding onto your story and the thoughts and beliefs it reflects. The story becomes more important than peace. It takes willingness, courage, and honesty to look at our motivation, which is always a choice that we are making of what it is we want.
To realize that nothing outside ourselves can threaten us is our release from suffering, and yet this is not an intellectual process but an experience. It requires a willingness to face our own self-betrayal. When we do the forgiveness work, space is opened for the truth in our right minds to come through so we can experience the connection with the love we are. As Jesus says, "Now has he learned that no one frightens him, and nothing can endanger him. He has no enemies, and he is safe from all external things." (W.338.1.3-4)
What wonderful freedom there is in that thought! We have spent so much of our lives protecting ourselves from perceived harm. Why? We have learned from an early age that it is dangerous to be open and vulnerable, so we put up all kinds of defenses. We have felt deceived and betrayed by our experiences in the world, starting with our parents, who turned out not to be perfect. Thus, we started to feel unsafe and became afraid to receive; but the mind wants to feel innocent and therefore dodges the pain and numbs it, avoids it, or offers elaborate justifications for it. When our seeming vulnerability has been abused, fear arises, and we try to protect ourselves and shut down our capacity to receive. We become hypervigilant in staying alert to threat and developing strategies to keep us safe, yet we have a profound yearning for innocence. Our only safety is to let go of our defenses. We are reminded that the way we have defined ourselves, as a body and personal self that needs protection, is not who we are. We are safe and always have been.
Our thoughts can indeed frighten us, "but since these thoughts belong to him alone, he has the power to change them and exchange each fear thought for a happy thought of love." (W.338.1.5) We only crucify ourselves, but now we see that we have the power to change our thoughts. Our problems are never external, so they can't be solved with anything external. To find peace from the pain and suffering we experience, we must see that nothing that comes to us from outside is the cause of suffering. It all comes from our own thoughts and the interpretations we give to situations we encounter. It all comes from the separation, where the decision was made to leave God and make our own way. From this thought came a sense of abandonment, which is triggered when someone leaves us and we feel crushed, or we leave before we can be abandoned to protect ourselves from potential pain. All that is happening is that we are seeing ourselves as victims of outside events. When we can see that we have not been abandoned by God, but chose to do the abandoning, and when we take responsibility for that, we can bring our sadness, loneliness, and sense of loss to the Holy Spirit. We see that it was of our own choosing, and now, we can choose again. Now, all relationships are valuable for what we can learn from them about our fears. We are no longer victims, living in fear of abandonment. Relationships provide us with a valuable classroom for looking at our thoughts.
"Your plan is sure, my Father,---only Yours. All other plans will fail. And I will have thoughts that will frighten me, until I learn that You have given me the only Thought that leads me to salvation. Mine alone will fail, and lead me nowhere. But the Thought You gave me promises to lead me home, because it holds Your promise to Your Son." (W.338.2.1-5)
The plan our Father assures us of is the plan of Atonement. By accepting healing for ourselves offered through forgiveness, we remember who we are. We have been given a way to return home. His plan is the undoing of all our mistaken thoughts by returning the problem back to the mind, which is the only place it can be undone. This is very hopeful because now it is entirely up to us. Nothing outside of us has any power to hurt us or harm us and nothing outside of us will save us. It is all up to us. It is our dream, so we can do something about it in alliance with the power of the Holy Spirit in our right minds.
"I am never upset for the reason I think," (W.5) reminds us that while we think events outside our own minds are the cause of our upsets, the cause is always in how we think about a situation. As Jesus reminds us, "I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I would experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve." (T.21.II.2.3-4) (ACIM OE T.21.III.15)
"It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident." (T.21.II.3.1-3) (ACIM OE T.21.III.17)
In the Workbook, Lesson 190 tells us: "It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in any way. There is no cause beyond yourself that can reach down and bring oppression. No one but yourself affects you. There is nothing in the world that has the power to make you ill or sad or weak or frail. But it is you who have the power to dominate all things you see by merely recognizing what you are." (W.190.5.1-6)
Love and blessings, Sarah


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