And now he seeks within his dream to find what gifts it may contain. What can you get within its shadows? Who can save you now by giving you the love you threw away? What can you learn to do to make yourself a master over others? What is there that is your special gift within the dream? Find these and do not waken from the dream, for it can give you what you think you lack. But if you waken, all its gifts will go, your armour and your sword will disappear, and vultures, always circling overhead, will claim you as their lawful prey at last.
Recently I went to an IMAX Virtual Reality Experience Centre.
The experience I chose was called Space Flight: Orbital Emergency. You’re sat in a seat and you’re wearing a virtual reality headset. The images you see, the sounds you hear and the movement of the seat you are sat on makes it seem like you are sitting in a cockpit of an aircraft. It’s different from a movie because it’s not just a fixed screen in front of you: you can turn your head and look around and the images that you see adjust accordingly. So it’s an immersive experience. At one point it looks like a large asteroid is on a collision course with you, but just in time you eject from the aircraft. And as you see the earth far below a dangling pair of space-suit covered legs, it really does feel like you are parachuting back to the ground. Your mind is tricked into thinking that you are in that situation because of the sensory information you are receiving.
By complete contrast, I discovered a Float Centre not far from where I live and went along to try it out. The centre has sensory deprivation pods which contain warm water heavily dosed with Epsom salts. You close the lid of the pod and float in the water in darkness and silence. Your body feels lighter and it’s a deeply relaxing experience. The intention is to deprive your senses of touch, sight and hearing in order to more easily allow you to enter a meditative state free from the distractions of external stimulation.
So the virtual reality equipment provides sensory information to override the normal senses and give an exciting experience, whilst the float pod aims to cut out the information being received from these normal senses as much as possible in order to aid relaxation.
But you can, when sitting in the virtual reality experience, tell yourself “I’m just sat in a seat and what I seem to be experiencing isn’t really happening”. And in the float pod you can still hear yourself breathing and your heart beating, even though otherwise you can’t hear, see or to a large extent feel anything. So neither experience completely works at providing the two extremes: complete immersion in a different physical reality or complete removal from the experience of being in a physical reality.
We know when we enter either the virtual reality experience or the float pod that our senses are going to send us radically different information to what we normally receive in everyday life. But we also know that this is only for a very limited time period. So we remember what is normal for us and when we come out we aren’t surprised to see our everyday life reappear. However, this does raise the question of what would happen if we could extend the time that we spend in these two places such that we were able to forget what our everyday life was? What if we could forget putting on the virtual reality headset or climbing into the float pod? What if the two experiences were enhanced to become completely immersive and to last for a long period of time so that we were unable to remember anything prior to entering them? Surely what we were experiencing would then become what we would think of as our normal world?
If we are so reliant on our physical senses to tell us what is real and was isn’t, how do we know that what we think of as our normal world isn’t just another virtual reality?
A Course In Miracles teaches:
Let not your eyes behold a dream; your ears bear witness to illusion. They were made to look upon a world that is not there; to hear the voices that can make no sound. For eyes and ears are senses without sense, and what they see and hear they but report. It is not they that hear and see, but you, who put together every jagged piece, each senseless scrap and shred of evidence, and make a witness to the world you want. It is indeed a senseless point of view to hold responsible for sight a thing that cannot see, and blame it for the sounds you do not like, although it cannot hear. A Course In Miracles, Chapter 28 V.5:3-4,6-7; VI.2:1
The first sentence sounds like being in a virtual reality experience: our senses are presenting to us an experience that isn’t real. The second sentence suggests that the reality behind this artificial experience is something more like a sensory deprivation pod, where there is really nothing there to see or hear. And the rest of this text tells us that our human senses are senseless, in the sense that they simply present us with sensory data. Our eyes send us visual sensory data, but what we actual see depends upon how our minds interpret this data. And how our minds interpret sensory data depends on a myriad of factors: all the information and influences we have been subjected to in our lives and the image we have built up for ourselves of the world and our place in it.
The human senses provide us with too much information for us to effectively process it all, so we disregard the information that doesn’t seem important from our point of view and accentuate the information that does seem important to us.
Which is why two witnesses of the same event will describe what happened slightly differently: assuming they were stood in roughly the same location the sensory data they received will be the same but the way their minds interpret what they saw will be different.
The second lesson in the Workbook of A Course In Miracles is “I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me”
What we are “seeing” on the physical plane is atoms moving around in space, stimulating electrical impulses in our eyes. But what we think we see is dependent on the way our mind has been programmed. And all our minds have been programmed with fear: we are constantly bombarded with media telling us that the world is a dangerous place and we have to protect ourselves against it. Even those things that we think bring us happiness are a form of fear if we are afraid of losing them.
So what is to be done about this? Maybe the answer is in the following three quotes:
For sights and sounds, at best, can serve but to recall the memory that lies beyond them all. A Course In Miracles, Lesson 336.1:3
For sights and sounds must be translated from the witnesses of fear to those of love. A Course In Miracles, Workbook Part 2, Section 7. What is the Holy Spirit? 2:2
Sink deep into the peace that waits for you beyond the frantic, riotous thoughts and sights and sounds of this insane world. A Course In Miracles, Lesson 49.4:4
Yesterday I signed an online petition calling for the banning of pig cages. This is the picture which shows pigs stuck in cages so small that they can barely move at all:
It seemed appalling to me that any creature should be so tightly restricted like this.
Then this morning I read this in A Course In Miracles:
Only happy sights and sounds can reach the mind that has forgiven itself (Workbook, Part II, Section 8, 2, 6)
So if I see unhappy sights and sounds, it is because there is unforgiveness in my mind. There is guilt there, that is showing itself through what I am perceiving in the world.
This image of pigs in cages was certainly an unhappy sight, so I asked myself “Where does this come from?” It comes from guilt in my mind. Guilt that I still perceive myself as constricted: held tight within a human body when the reality is that I am eternal spirit that cannot be constrained by time or space.
By extreme contrast, at the weekend I got to spend some time with horses for the first time in my life. Once I’d overcome my initial nervousness, it was fabulous to be with the horses.
What I particularly noticed was that the horses were content to spend time alone in their stables because they knew that soon they would be let out. And when they were, it was a real joy to see them galloping around and interacting with each other. Happy sights and sounds!
When we realize that we are not bound by the tight constraints of this mind/body construct; when the sights that we see and the sounds that we hear aren’t the only reality we have, we can accept what seem to be our temporary limitations because we know that freedom to be what we really are cannot be denied us.
This week I had a problem with a tooth which cracked and became painful, so I arranged an emergency appointment with my dentist.
My dentist is about an hour’s drive from where I live and there are two different motorway routes I can take to get there. One is slightly faster but is more likely to have traffic congestion than the other, so I had a choice to make about which route to take and as I approached the junction where I would have to decide I was very unsure which way I should go. I had checked the traffic situation online before I left home and both motorways were clear.
At the last second I turned off and took the motorway that is slightly quicker if there is no traffic. After a couple of miles the traffic began to slow and I went no more than a mile further before the traffic stopped completely. My immediate reaction was “I should have gone the other way”, particularly when it became clear that there was a serious accident ahead as police cars, fire engines and the air ambulance made their way to the scene.
So I turned on the radio to listen to traffic reports to see if I could get more information. And what I learned was that not only was I in for a lengthy wait but that there had also been another accident at roughly the same time on the other motorway I could have taken, and it was also badly blocked. The chances of serious accidents happening on both these motorways at the same time must be quite low, but that is what had happened. So regardless of which route I’d taken I wouldn’t have got to my dentist!
It was more than three hours later that the road was cleared sufficiently to let traffic begin to move and by that time it was far too late for me to continue my journey, so I turned around at the next motorway junction and came home.
The following morning I made the journey successfully and got my tooth repaired. And during my car journey I was listening to a recording of a spiritual talk. One of the questions asked at the end of the talk reminded me of my question to myself the previous day: “Which motorway should I take?”
The questioner asked “There are choices that have to be made in life: this route or that route, this thing to do or that thing to do. How do I know which I should choose?”
And this was the answer:
“There seem to be choices which have to be made. But these choices are illusions. Not that you shouldn’t make choices, but the problem comes when you put power into those choices by thinking “This will work and that won’t work”. Then you are holding on to illusions. If you let go, the choice will be made for you. It only seems that you have to make a choice. Imagine a train going down a track and it comes to a junction. The driver of the train is asking himself “Should I go left or should I go right?” and is weighing up the options of which way he should go. When the train gets to the junction it automatically goes one way. It’s got nothing to do with the driver of the train: it’s to do with the track. The idea that you’re making the choices is the illusion. And the more you allow yourself to recognise this, the more trust you will have that life is working out exactly as it should. Don’t contemplate what you should or shouldn’t do. Surrender the illusion of control. Surrender any need to improve anything, or to make it work or to cope. Then you have trust.”
If I hadn’t turned on the radio traffic report when I was stuck in the traffic jam I would have assumed that I’d made the wrong choice and that the fact that I didn’t make it to the dentist that day was due to my wrong choice. And this is what we do. We assume we’ve done things wrong and failed because we’ve made a choice and something hasn’t turned out the way we thought and hoped it would. We assume we made the wrong choice and we blame ourselves. But we have no way of knowing what would have happened if we’d made the other choice. The reality was that whichever choice I’d made I wasn’t going to make it to the dentist. We think that we’re in control. But we’re not in control.
It reminded me of what Michael Singer, author of “The Untethered Soul” and “The Surrender Experiment”, says:
“Nothing is personal. Things are the way that they are because there are forces that cause them to be that way. You are not the cause of anything. If you stop and be a scientist and look at what is going on in front of you in any moment; count how many forces and variables are involved to cause it to be the way it is. I mean, from the beginning of time. Nothing is the way that it is except for all the influences that came together to cause it to be that way. If I question “Why is this that way?” I have to go back to the beginning of time. I have to go back to the Big Bang. Because every single thing that ever happened is what causes things to be the way that they are now. You are not the doer. You are a participant, but a very small one. If it’s been going on for 13.8 billion years and it shows up in front of you and you go “Boo!”, that’s just one out of 700 billion zillion forces that cause things to be the way they are. It’s not proper for you to think that you’re doing this stuff.”
So we can make choices, as indeed we have to. But if we can recognise that our personal choices don’t have any power, we can realise that there’s no need to worry that we might make the wrong choice. And after we’ve made the choice, we need have no regret that it might have been the wrong one. If we can do this, and take our own need for control out of the equation, we can be more receptive to the guidance of Life (or God, or The Universe, or whatever name you wish to use for the power that is behind everything that is).
For myself, it’s a valuable lesson not to be concerned about what is or isn’t happening in my life. It’s a reminder to trust that everything is happening as it should be, even if that very much doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather than desperately trying (and inevitably failing) to force things to be the way my personal self would like them to be, I will be so much more content if I accept things as they are and allow myself to be more open to being guided.
And so I leave all things to You. I need be anxious over nothing. For Your Voice will tell me what to do and where to go; to whom to speak and what to say to him, what thoughts to think, what words to give the world. A Course In Miracles, Lesson 275
The blender I use for making smoothies is loud. It sounds like a pneumatic drill.
I was using it one day when my nephew was in the house and he came running to see what was making the noise. And when the blender had stopped he looked at the green coloured contents (I like to use lots of spinach in my smoothies) and announced “I don’t like that”.
I laughed….because I recognised my own pattern of thought in what he’d said. So I challenged him: “How do you know that you don’t like it? You haven’t tried it.”
Credit to him: when I got a spoon and offered him a taste of the smoothie, he took it. I’m sure at his age I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought of trying something I’d decided I didn’t like.
And after he’d tasted it, he pointed to the smoothie and said “I like that”.
During my own childhood I decided that I didn’t like baked beans in tomato sauce. I don’t think I actually ever tried them. The main reason for my decision seemed to be the fact that my dad wouldn’t eat them.
To be fair to my younger self, I had tried tomatoes and didn’t like the texture or taste of them so there was at least some logic to my decision. But my dad actually liked tomatoes. He used to eat them with sugar on. And tomato sauce is really just sweetened tomato puree. So how he’d come to the conclusion that baked beans in tomato sauce were an unacceptable food I’ve no idea!
I was reminded of these dubious decisions about food when reading the following statements in A Course In Miracles about The Acceptance of Reality (Chapter 9, I):
Fear of the Will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made.
What seems to be the fear of God is really the fear of your own reality.
If you do not know what your reality is, why would you be so sure that it is fearful?
We don’t know the truth of what we really are. So we ASSUME that it’s something that we should be afraid of.
Albert Einstein said that the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe. And for most of us, our default position is that we believe we live in a hostile universe.
Life is scary, so we need to defend ourselves.
Back to A Course In Miracles, which says:
The association of truth and fear, which would be highly artificial at most, is particularly inappropriate in the minds of those who do not know what truth is. All this could mean is that you are arbitrarily associating something beyond your awareness with something you do not want. It is evident, then, that you are judging something of which you are totally unaware.
It’s like looking at a particular food and deciding we don’t like how it tastes based on its colour and its shape. We can’t know how it tastes based on the information we have. So we assume the worst, in order to defend ourselves from the threat that we see from life. And so we turn down the opportunity to taste something that could be the nicest thing we’ll ever eat.
But we don’t have to think like this. We have a choice. Fear need not hold you back if you choose not to let it.
I remember asking myself “What is the scariest thing I could do?”
I’m scared of heights, so 18 months ago I made myself do a parachute jump. And, Yes the freefall was gut-wrenchingly terrifying. But it was over in 40 seconds and once the parachute opened I was suspended in the sky and it was peaceful and beautiful.
Under each dark cornerstone of fear on which you have erected your insane system of beliefs, the truth lies hidden. A Course In Miracles, Chapter 14, VII, 2.
Life is only hostile if we believe that it is hostile. If we have the courage to challenge what we see as fearful rather than avoiding it, we can discover benignity and benevolence.
If we’re not busy hiding from what we think we must be, we can discover the truth of what we really are: we can discover something more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.
One day when I was driving on the motorway this thought came to me:
“If an alien spaceship which had just encountered Earth for the first time was hovering overhead and the aliens looked down they would see all these objects of different sizes, colours and shapes moving along the motorway and they could assume that these objects were the inhabitants of planet Earth”
Maybe not too startling an insight: the aliens perhaps wouldn’t realize that there were people in the cars and lorries, and it was the people driving the vehicles who are the real inhabitants of the planet.
But what was striking for me was the realization that this is exactly what we do! We look on people going about their daily lives and we identify them as the bodies that we see. Different shapes, sizes and colours. And we make massive assumptions about people based on what we see and hear. We hear a particular language or accent and see a particular body shape and we have a stereotype in our mind which describes what people with that characteristic are like.
And what we fail to recognise is that these bodies are only vehicles.
That’s an amazing revelation: This body, that I thought I was, isn’t what I am!
It’s simply a vehicle that I use to travel through life in. What I am is consciousness having a human experience.
Lesson 199 of A Course In Miracles teaches “…the body will appear as useful form for what the mind must do. It thus becomes a vehicle…”
Just because our bodies change over time, wear out and ultimately cease to function, this doesn’t change the essence of who we are. The driver of the vehicle which is the body is still the same, even though the body itself changes radically between childhood and old age.
It’s good to look after the body: to exercise and eat well in order to keep the body healthy, just like we service a car and put the correct fuel in it so that it runs smoothly. But regardless of how well we look after it, there will come a time when our body’s usefulness will be over.
A Course In Miracles teaches (Chapter 6, V, A, 1, 1-3):
When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think that this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you who are life.
Death is nothing! It’s just a change of vehicle.
If our old car fails its annual MOT test and the cost of repairing it is more than the value of the car, the only sensible thing to do is scrap it. We might feel sad if we have built up a sentimental attachment to the car, but very soon this sadness will give way to the excitement of getting a new car.
So there’s no need to fear death. It’s just the giving up of a vehicle that temporarily contains the life that you are. A life that ultimately cannot be contained.
We wouldn’t say that a car is alive. Until the driver puts fuel in it, sits in the driver’s seat and turns the ignition, there is no “life” in the car. And we could take all the necessary human body parts to make a body and sew them all together and there would be no life in that body. Because the life-force of what we are is in the mind, which exists separate from the body.
Imagine if you had a car that you could never leave: you had to sleep in it; eat in it (drive-through meals all the time!); go to the toilet in it; do everything in it without ever getting out of your car. How uncomfortable and restricting would that be? Maybe this is one of the reasons why we sleep at night: so the spirit can be released from the straight-jacket of our thinking that we are just a human body.
Lesson 199 of A Course In Miracles is entitled “I am not a body. I am free.” It’s wonderful when we realize that we aren’t these bodies that we mistakenly thought we were. The essence of what we are isn’t human form that can only crumble and die. We are so much more. And we are free.
You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. A Course In Miracles, Chapter 2, VI, 2, 5-7
This may seem quite startling at first: we don’t have free will when it comes to what we do; it is already determined by our thinking. But we DO have free will at the level of thought.
I used to think that my thoughts were my thoughts and there was nothing I could do about them. They came into my mind and I thought them and that was that. But if that what’s we believe then we’re being deceived. We have a choice. When a thought comes into our mind we can focus our consciousness on it, or choose not to. We can’t choose the thoughts that come into our mind but we can choose whether or not to give our attention to them. We don’t have to just let them in.
Thoughts seem to queue up to get into our mind. As soon as we’ve dealt with one thought, another appears for us to deal with. And then another. Think of it like a queue to get into a nightclub. People, like thoughts, are queuing up to get in. As soon as one gets to the front of the queue a decision is made about whether to let them in or turn them away.
We need to be our own nightclub doorman. To censor which thoughts we allow in and which we turn away at the door of our mind.
If a thoughts gets in it’s more likely that similar thoughts (its friends) will get in too. And if they are happy, contented thoughts then the thoughts that will be dancing around inside our mind will be harmonious.
But if there’s someone in the queue who we know or even just suspect is trouble, should we risk letting them in? They’ve made the effort to queue up, so maybe they have something important to contribute. They tell us that they are a reformed character and it will do no harm to let them in. Maybe we take the risk. But once they’re through the door of our mind we’ve lost a lot of our control. If they’re still trouble then they’re going to be disturbing other thoughts in there. Particularly if we’ve been persuaded to let some of their mates in too. It will be difficult to get all of these thoughts out of our mind.
And pretty soon, instead of a pleasant, happy environment there is upset and anger. A fight breaks out. Maybe the police have to be called. The peace of the mind has been disturbed. All because we weren’t vigilant in our role of doorman. It’s much more difficult to evict thoughts than it is to deny them access in the first place.
Your thoughts determine what you do. If you let your thoughts run riot, don’t be surprised if what you do is dangerous. Danger is exciting. The ego encourages and feeds off excitement. It will tell us that calm contentment is boring; that we need some excitement in our lives; that we need to explore some new thing and keep up with what other people are doing.
It’s your choice. And your responsibility. What you do comes from what you think. And you are responsible for what you think. You can’t choose what thoughts appear in your mind but you can choose whether to think them or not.
We hear of people doing despicable things. And maybe we think “I would never do anything like that”. But really we know that we too have the potential to do cruel and horrible things, if we allow thoughts of such things to take root in our minds.
It’s easy to look at another person and judge their behaviour as damaging to themselves or other people. But remember that this behaviour comes from their thinking. And everyone is doing the best that they can with the thinking that they have.
It may be yourself you are judging: berating yourself because you know you’ve allowed yourself to think in ways that have been damaging to both yourself and others. If so, try this affirmation:
I forgive myself for giving space in my mind to thoughts that have no value. I acknowledge the great power of my mind. I will feed it with valuable, healthy, pure thoughts and discard all others.
This is a song I wrote (words and melody only).
The chorus is inspired by A Course In Miracles.
The verses are my interpretation of the Mul Mantra.
As a vegan (sometimes lapsing into vegetarianism) I eat lots of nuts and seeds. And my favourite by some distance are pistachios. You know the ones: the seed has a mauve-coloured skin and light green flesh and is encased in a hard, cream-coloured shell (description nicked from Wikipedia!). They are generally sold roasted; usually in their shells. They have a distinctive flavour. And I LOVE them.
Anyway, if like me you have the habit of eating a bag of pistachios all in one go, you may have noticed the variation between the different pistachios in how closed their shells are. Typically in a bag of pistachios most of them will have shells that it’s easy to prize open with your fingers to get to the seed. But there will also be a few which are more difficult to get into because the gap between the two parts of the shell is so small that you can’t get your fingernails into the gap to prize them apart. And there may be just a couple whose shells are sealed tight and it’s impossible to break them apart without a nutcracker.
Just in case you can’t visualize what I’m talking about, here’s a photo:
The pistachio seed is the fruit of the pistachio tree. The seed is the valuable part, not the shell. Valuable to eat, as far as we humans are concerned, as they taste great and have good nutritional value. And valuable too for the pistachio tree that grows them; because it is the seed that, if it can find its way into the ground, will perpetuate the life of its species.
Why am I banging on about pistachios? Well, I was thinking about those two or three pistachios in a bag whose shells are tight shut. How do we know there is a seed in there? We can only see a shell. We can shake it and see if we can hear anything rattling around inside. But otherwise we’re just trusting that there is a seed in there and it’s worth making the effort of breaking the shell apart to get to the seed.
The purpose of the shell is to protect the seed. But if the shell remains tight shut and the seed can’t be accessed, the valuable seed doesn’t fulfil its purpose.
Well, the shell of the pistachio is like our ego.
What is our ego? It is simply the ideas that we have built up about ourselves in our mind over the years of our lives; false ideas that tell us that we are what we have or what we do.
We think we need this ego to protect us. To keep us safe from everything that we see in the world that scares us and we think we need to defend ourselves against. It tells us that it gives us this protection. But it also makes us think that we are the shell and hides from us the inner part of ourself: the valuable part; our real self. It tries to keep the shell tight shut so we’re not aware of any other possibility. It knows that if it allows us access to our inner self, then the shell that is the ego will be broken apart and discarded.
There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I believed I was a human body with thoughts and feelings and nothing more. I made the mistake of identifying myself as the shell rather than the seed. I didn’t have the awareness that there was anything of real value within me. The shell of my ego was tight shut and I thought I was nothing but a hollow shell. I felt an emptiness inside myself and a disconnection from other people and any purpose in this life. I was starting to have suicidal thoughts because I felt my life was valueless.
But my desperate thoughts of “I can’t go on like this” seemed to be a turning point. Slow, subtle changes came as I sought and received help. And as I started to feel better, I began engaging with other people more and life became more enjoyable.
Then out of nowhere I felt a strange urge to visit an elderly man who I hadn’t seen for something like 15 years. He lived some distance from me but any time I passed anywhere vaguely close to where he lived I felt a pull to go to see him. I put off doing so because I couldn’t see any benefit to myself in it. But eventually I did call round to his house. He wasn’t in. So I tried again a month or two later. Again he wasn’t in. Still this urge wouldn’t go away, so I found his telephone number and tried ringing him. He wasn’t in. But the second time I tried ringing him he was in, and I went to see him.
He was delighted to see me; to know that I remembered him and had taken the time to visit him. But that isn’t the point of this story. The point is: where did this urge come from? It didn’t come from my selfish, logical personality. On a purely functional level there was no benefit to me in visiting this man. And I hadn’t done it, or remotely felt the urge to do it, in the proceeding 15 years. Something had changed.
It was like a tiny slit had opened up in the shell of my ego. So I tried to look deep inside myself to see what it was that was there but didn’t feel like it was part of me. I thought I could make out what it was. And what I saw astonished me.
Because what I saw was ….. love.
Not the sort of reciprocatory love that you feel for someone who does something for you. But a love that wants nothing in return. It felt like this couldn’t possibly be part of me. And yet there it was.
A Course In Miracles teaches us:
You are the work of God. And His work is wholly loveable and wholly loving. This is how a man must think of himself in his heart, because this is what he is. A Course In Miracles, Chapter 1, III, 2, 3-4
This applies to us even if we don’t think we’re remotely loveable. Or particularly loving. The reason we don’t think this way is because we believe what the ego tells us: we’re just a human body living a human life and pretty soon it will be over; hopefully we’ll have some good times and achieve something we can be proud of and share some love. It hides from us the reality that we are love.
So, back to the pistachios.
My nutcracker has gone missing. So I couldn’t break open the shells of a few pistachios whose shells were tight shut. But because I love pistachios so much I didn’t just throw these out. I kept them in a small bag with the intention to get back to them once I found the nutcracker or bought a new one.
I still don’t have a nutcracker. But I looked in that bag the other day. And I noticed that some of those pistachios now have a tiny gap in the shell. It seems that eventually the shells will quite naturally very slowly begin to open. The gap between the two parts of the shell is so small that you can’t get your fingernails into the gap to prize them apart. But if you get a small, thin, pointed knife, slide it into the gap and twist it, the shell will break apart and the seed will be released.
It can be like this in our lives too. However empty and worthless we may feel, God doesn’t see us like this. He doesn’t discard us. Because we are part of Him and He loves us.
And eventually a tiny gap will appear in this façade of what we think we are. Experiences will come. Maybe difficult, painful experiences. It may feel like a knife is being plunged into us and being twisted just to increase the pain.
But there is another purpose. It is done with love, to break apart this lie that we are nothing but human bodies and a fearful ego, condemned to die. To break down our defences, so that we can see the truth of what we really are.
What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you. But your defences did not let you see His loving blessing shine in every step you ever took. While you made plans for death, He led you gently to eternal life. A Course In Miracles, Lesson 135, 18.
At the weekend I went to my nephew’s third birthday party.
He got quite excited opening his presents. And each time he pulled the wrapping paper off a gift and looked at what it was, he looked up and asked a question:
“Is it mine?”
This seems to be the question that we ask ourselves. A lot. In many different ways. Even when we’ve grown up.
A good education? A successful career? The respect of my peers? Is it mine?
A nice house? A good car? Is it mine?
A loving partner? Children? Grandchildren? Is it mine?
Have I achieved what I wanted to achieve? Is it mine?
Do these things belong to me?
We believe we are asking the question “Is it mine?” But is this really the question we are asking ourselves?
Lesson 139 of A Course In Miracles teaches that there is no doubt that is not rooted in the single, simple question “What am I?”
So regardless of what we think our question is, the real question we are asking ourselves is “What am I?”
If we have a doubt about whether something is really ours, we’re questioning how we relate to it. And how we relate to it depends on what we are.
If my nephew had really understood that he was receiving presents that were his to keep not because of anything he had or hadn’t done, but simply because he was someone who was born on that day three years ago, then he wouldn’t have kept asking “Is it mine?”
And if we really understood who we are, we wouldn’t keep asking “Am I doing this right?”; “Am I deserving of this?”; “How do I compare to others?”, “What do I need to do in the future?”
So we must surely conclude that we don’t really know who we are. We’ve made up a story about who we are. And then believed it. But is it true?
A Course In Miracles says (Chapter 31, V, 17, 7-9):
There is no statement that the world is more afraid to hear than this: “I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not know what I am doing, where I am, or how to look upon the world or on myself.”
Yet in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself.
So although it’s scary to recognise that the whole identity we have built up for ourselves and rely on isn’t really what we are, it is in this realisation that we can begin to learn what we truly are. And as we learn, the concepts we have constructed within our minds to tell ourselves what we are can be changed:
You will make many concepts of the self as learning goes along. Each one will show the changes in your own relationship as your perception of yourself is changed. There will be some confusion every time there is a shift, but be you thankful that the learning of the world is loosening its grasp upon your mind. And be you sure and happy in the confidence that it will go at last, and leave your mind at peace. Chapter 31, V, 16, 1-4
So if you’re confused about who or what you are, what is yours and what life holds for you……..join the club!!! But, don’t worry…….out of this confusion comes learning of what you really are. And the more you see what you really are, the more peace you will have within yourself.
We have lots of questions: about ourselves; about the world. Constant questioning. But A Course In Miracles says (Clarification of Terms, 2, 9, 1):
Your questions have no answer, being made to still God’s Voice, which asks of everyone one question only: “Are you ready yet to help Me save the world?”
So maybe our questions aren’t important after all. Maybe instead of asking questions about what is ours and what we are, we should instead be listening to the question that is being asked of us. Not “Are you going to help Me save the world?” It seems that is inevitable. It’s only a question of time. The only question is whether we are ready yet.
I woke up this morning thinking about being disappointed and what this means.
When we’re disappointed by someone, we think it’s because of something they’ve done or haven’t done. But it isn’t. It’s because our expectation of them was incorrect.
“Dis” means having a negative or reversing effect. “Appoint” means to assign a role to someone or something. So when we’re disappointed by someone, it’s not because of anything they have done: it’s because we have set up a false role for them in our mind.
They are just living the life they are living! All the forces acting on them since their birth, and ultimately since the beginning of time, make them what they are. And they are that. But we come along and we make up a story about them in our head. And we expect them to be different to what they are. It isn’t going to happen. They are going to be what they are, not what we think they are or what we’d like them to be. And we just hurt ourselves by expecting them to be something different.
But this can be a great learning experience. It can teach us that it isn’t this person that is wrong; it is what we have created in our mind. It isn’t this person that needs to change; it is our mind that needs to change. We need to see not just this person but the whole universe differently – as it really is, without the distortion of our thinking.
There is nothing wrong. The error is in our thinking that there is. This is true not just for people but for every situation in life that disappoints you. You find yourself thinking “Oh, I didn’t expect it to be like that. I wanted something different”. There is no “something different”! There is only ever what is. Forgiveness is recognizing this and accepting it. And allowing your mind to be changed.
So I opened “A Course of Love” and started reading. And I came across this, which seemed so very much in line with my thoughts about disappointment:
(This is) your entire problem: You do not allow anything that exists in the world, including yourself, to be what it is. A Course of Love, 9.13
Disappointment is erroneous thinking. And this is as true when we are disappointed in ourselves as it is when we are disappointed in someone else. So we need to forgive ourselves and accept ourselves as we are.
A Course In Miracles teaches (Lesson 52):
When I have forgiven myself and remembered Who I am, I will bless everyone and everything I see.
Then there will be no disappointment. Because I will accept everything just as it is.
The Holy Spirit’s function is to take the broken picture of the Son of God and put the pieces into place again. This holy picture, healed entirely, does He hold out to every separate piece that thinks it is a picture in itself. To each He offers his Identity, which the whole picture represents, instead of just a little, broken bit that he insisted was himself. And when he sees this picture he will recognize himself. A Course In Miracles, Chapter 28, IV, 8.
We are all pieces of this great puzzle. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. And the Holy Spirit holds out a picture to us. This picture seems to us to be vague, bland, unexciting. There’s something about this picture; it’s disturbing, but it’s also strangely appealing. It looks important in some way but we can’t seem to see ourselves in it, so we assume it has nothing to do with us.
So we continue our lives as separate pieces. And we feel the loneliness of a life that is separate that should be joined. We know that there is something not right; that there is something more. But we don’t know what.
And so we try to find a place for ourselves in the world. We try to match the patterns and the colours we see in the picture we have of ourselves to what we see in the world. We look for a place where others have the same patterns and colours as us so we can fit in, belong and be at ease.
And it seems to work. We find somewhere, and at first we think we fit. It seems great for a time, but then some other pieces get put in place and it becomes obvious that we’re not going to fit with them and we’re not in the right place. So we look for somewhere else and try to slot ourselves in, making our little piece fit even if we have to force it a bit and we really know that we’re not going to be able to stay there. We try various places. And some of them satisfy for a while, but then we just know that that isn’t where we fit. Until we despair that we will ever find our place in life. And in our despair we give up searching and acknowledge that we simply do not know. Slowly we begin to realize that all the thoughts, the images, the memories that we have created for ourselves, they don’t mean anything. The identity we have built for ourselves seems worthless and we begin to truly question who we really are.
It is then, in our surrender, that a mighty hand picks us up and turns the piece of the jigsaw that is us; that piece that seems to us to not fit anywhere and have no value, and it shows us what is on the reverse side. This is the Holy Spirit working. It works to bring about changes in our lives and in our minds. And gradually we begin to understand that there is another side to life. A side that is quite unlike the side of life we are used to. This other side at first glance looks blank; but slowly we begin to realize that in this blankness, this nothingness, is everything. As we take the time to closely look at what is there we see that in the quietness is the sweetest music and in the calmness is the deepest joy. It’s so incredible we can scarcely dare to believe it. A piece of picture, with a beauty of its own.
But more than that. A piece of picture that we recognize. We’ve seen it somewhere before. And with joy we begin to understand that we are part of that picture that the Holy Spirit has been trying to show us all our lives. We are a part of the picture of the Son of God. And the Holy Spirit is putting us into place, so that the Son of God can be whole again.
As this completed picture becomes more visible to us, we recognize that we have a part in it. And without us the picture can never be completed. We don’t know how this picture is going to form around us. Because it doesn’t have the patterns and colours of this world we can’t even try to fit ourselves into this picture. We realize that we have to trust and allow. So we leave it to the mighty hand that showed us this other side of life to place us where it would have us be. This mighty hand makes no mistakes: it puts us exactly where we need to be to fit in with the great plan of salvation. Are we willing to be placed where the Holy Spirit wants us? Because while even one piece is unknowing or unwilling, the Son of God cannot be complete.
We all have different colours and shades and shapes imprinted on us. So we think we’re all different. We have different personalities, ideosyncrasies, histories and traditions – but actually none of this matters. What matters is the other side of us. What matters is that we know there is this other side to us. And on this other side we’re all the same. Not just similar, but identical. There is no variation, no separation – we are all the Holy Son of God.
A reading of a poem I wrote about my own experiences.
My latest guided meditation is now available to watch. This one is longer at just over half an hour and focuses on narrowing down the time frame of perception from an entire life to just the present moment.
I have recently felt inspired to write my own guided meditations. This is the first one that I have recorded as a video. It’s aim is to slow down the activity of the mind and achieve a calm, still state.