REAL-ize, don't ANAL-ize.

The ego is a terrible student. In fact, it is a complete, closed thought system that allows for no True learning or communication. It can allow nothing Real in. Its precarious existence is preserved in the dark shadows by keeping out the Light.

Ironically, the ego is also always our "study buddy" when we begin our spiritual lessons. As a superb shape-shifter, it's more than happy to step in with its white robe and lectern and be our teacher. It often tells us we are "quick studies" and leads us to believe we have mastered things easily. Or it tells us we are incompetent learners because we are not "getting it" quicker.

Most of our early time spent in spiritual practice is spent "not getting it while thinking we are." But the important thing to know is that is absolutely ok. Think about it: How helpful would any spiritual discipline be if we needed to be healed (i.e. without ego) to use it?

A humbling part of the journey is realizing how wrong we are about what we think we know. But we can remember that only the ego thinks it is bad to be humble. The Self knows it is freedom.

I used to spin my wheels on Forgiveness. Something would happen at work or at home, and I'd experience guilt or anger or fear or sadness, etc. I would say to myself all the right words...."I forgive X for what he has not done." I would pick apart the situation and uncover what I thought were "reasons" (self esteem issues, misunderstandings, conflicting desires, immature beliefs, etc etc etc in him and/or in me) for the occurrence. Finally, I would picture him over and over in my mind as innocent. I would try to remember all the kind things he'd said or done before. I would think about what I wanted between us and try to "project" that good quality between us into the future.

That all sounds reasonable, right? It wasn't. It was actually the ego's interpretation of Forgiveness. I was using Forgiveness to "fix" something. I was, in fact, making the error real.

Like everyone, I still wanted my life of relationships and goals and my individual identity to be better, less painful. I was taking the form of ACIM (its words and concepts) and using the ego's content (intention). I was falling for the ego's deception of turning the one abstract Problem into specifics "out there." Another way to say it is that I was just not ready to undo the belief I've separated from God and created myself. I was not offering willingness at that level and was still in dress rehearsal for the real thing.

Eventually, things shifted for me. Now I see Forgiveness as a Light of Truth that shines in my mind and does all the work. When a "problem" seems to pop up, it's a gift. More of the dark unconscious is coming to the surface, and my only job is to remember the Truth. Sometimes that is easy and peace comes right away. Sometimes it takes more contemplation.

On the trickier subjects, I set the table in my mind -- with good china, sparkling crystal, and brilliant candles -- and prepare for a nice relaxing feast. I invite all the players to the table...the images of people, problems, and feelings. I ask them, "What is this about?" I find out what I am "buying" by holding on to the situation. It's always a lie. It's basis is always in the belief that God has condemned me.

Once I see what I'm buying, I know I don't want it anymore. With that decision, I have unlocked the door to Forgiveness. Then I go back to the Light of Truth, and I let the two concepts sit. "I need do nothing." The Light itself dissipates the darkness. I just wait and pour the wine....

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