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Correcting Perception Part 1
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Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.
Speaker: I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life, I went to college for ten years and I was searching, and searching, and questioning, and going from discipline to discipline, seeing this isn’t it, this isn’t it, and this isn’t it… and ultimately, the good news of the Course is that this world isn’t it! We do have a higher calling inside. It is calling us upwards and onwards to a very lofty function. The way healing is talked about early in the text is, “healing is the vocation of the Mind.” When we get caught in these self concepts we get caught in “I have to do this and this and this” ….beneath it is that we are to be healing. Whether you think of it as being a healer or if you bring it back to the Course’s way of looking at things, really you’re just healing your own mind. Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable to think of some of those old images of going out and laying hands on people. That might seem like a pretty wild idea that’s not very acceptable to some of us. Ultimately, we were talking about these thoughts that keep coming back and it seems like they keep coming and coming and coming.
One way we could come at it is, what I call backwards thinking and forwards thinking. The Course keeps teaching us, like a lot of spiritual paths, that we need to take self responsibility for our state of mind…complete self responsibility; that there is nothing outside of us in the world, including conditions of our body or conditions in the world, that has the power to take away our Peace of Mind. But, the ego belief system is, “No, you are small. You are teeny. You are a pawn. You are a victim of the circumstances in the world.” It could be job situations. You could feel it in a relationship where there is a co-dependency where you feel like you’re sunk in. It could be with friendships where you feel like your friends are very important to you and that they are the center of your life and, therefore, their opinions—what they think—seems to dominate your state of mind. Some people call it people pleasing. It’s like you take your state of mind and say, “Here it is on a silver platter. Be careful with it now!” And in the ultimate sense that’s a big set up for being a victim as well because the Course teaches us that we are completely responsible for our state of mind.
We might think of the mind, when it’s in the deceived state, as just filled with these backwards thoughts. These thoughts that there are certain things that can happen to us—that can hurt us on the outside. A lot of times in jobs there is a fear of being fired. Sometimes you’ll be in a job and issues will come up where it just doesn’t feel right ethically or morally and, yet, you do it because your boss says to do it, or the government says to do it. There’s some kind of outside authority. The Course is bringing it full circle to say that when we line our minds up with the Mind of God then we will be perfectly happy and perfectly joyful and we are sustained literally by the Love of our Father. Then there is no external authority that we bow down to.
It’s kind of tough to put some of these ideas together when you keep being told that you’re the Holy Son of God and magnificent and then you feel like you’re this person and you have to bow down to the ways of the world, to the ways of work, to relationships, and to situations. How can I be both? How can I be both this sense of magnitude and then turn right around and feel so teeny and feel like I’m at the demand of everything else? What the Course is saying is that the world that the deceived mind perceives is a projection and is a construction that was made to hide from that true identity, from the love of God.
I use the old story; I think it’s in the 500’s (in the text), where it goes, “into eternity where all is one there crept a tiny mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh.” If you can imagine there is this mighty, powerful, powerful Mind—the Son of God—and this tiny little puff—like one of those little seeds we saw blowing across the road, like a piece of pollen or something—and this magnificent powerful Mind that is everything and that has everything and is in perfect love and harmony of the Father. It’s kind of like taking this powerful Mind and focusing it on this tiny little puff, turning it towards this puff and saying, “hmm…I wonder if there could be more than all of this?” Or, another way to look at it is this: the Father and the Son are one and they’re in an eternal dance and they’re like each other in everyway. They’re spirit, eternal, light, abstract and there is only one difference in this Oneness. You can’t even tell the difference in Heaven between the Father and the Son because it’s like this ongoing song and there is no interruption and there’s no way to see where one ends and one begins. But there is one difference in a functional sense and that difference is that the Father created the Son. The Son of God did not create the Father. Well, it’s almost like this little puff said, “Are you going to settle for that? Are you going to settle for being the created? What if you could be Number One, King Pin, you could make up a world of your own.” Even though it is in Eternal Bliss, it is saying, “What if you could be the creator?” “What if you could have things your own way?” And a lot of us are familiar with that voice inside our mind, “I want to do it my way,” or “I want to have it just the way I want.” Metaphorically in our little story here, when the Son of God seemed to give its Mind to this puff it was a very horrifying experience and that’s when projection was made. The big bang so to speak. I call it the big bang in the Mind instead of the big bang where stars are scattered. It’s like literally the big bang in the Mind and the projection of the world was like a giant screen in which the ego said, “Quick, make up a world of form because God is abstract and light. He won’t come into form and get you.”
So, basically what we see is that the split in the mind gets projected out to a split world and now a world of duality of male/female, hot/cold, fast/slow, high/low—all of these. A world of duality is held out there in place. We always used to say victim/victimizer. If you’re working on not judging someone, the key to not judging is to not see anyone as one or the other of those things, to just not reinforce that split as being outside. So, if we bring it back to a job situation, basically now in the dream world the ego teaches that, “You’re a body. You’re tiny.” Anybody heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? You have needs here. You have lower order needs. You have to keep your body warm and you have to eat and drink—the lower order needs. But, these are established as “that is just the way it is.” The laws of survival and the basis of the laws of survival is the belief in scarcity. The belief in the mind that I’m lacking—that there is not enough food, not enough clothing, not enough shelter—basically, all have their underpinnings in the belief in scarcity, or lack, which still is the ego. Over the millennium, people have found different ways to seem to survive, and here comes the Course in Miracles and it’s saying we want to turn around the thoughts, from you being the victim of outside forces. And it’s going to take faith and trust because, ultimately, if you start laying aside the ways of the world, the things that you have to do to make it, you’ve got to have something to take the place of that. It’s like the lilies of the field passage in the Bible or the apostles back then. You’ve got to have something that’s going to kick in—that’s going to carry you through and carry you home, so to speak, and this something is the complete opposite. It is completely opposite to the ways of the world and the dependence on external circumstances; not only food, clothing, shelter but then insurance, that whole thing about protecting the things that you own. It’s like a tightly wound spring with all these defenses. To start laying aside defenses you have to have something, a rock that you can put your faith in, because how would it make any sense to start to giving up some of this stuff and move in the other direction unless you had something there—an alternative.
For me, my life has been a series of questioning the nature of reality, questioning everything. Even when I was in college and I was in different degree programs, instead of just being a good student and taking all the courses that I was supposed to take and trying to be polished off to be an urban planner, or to be a good school psychologist or engineer, I’m going in there and I’m questioning the underpinnings, questioning the basis of which these things are about. A lot of times you do that when you look for a job. Maybe, you don’t want a job in the defense industry making bombs or something that you don’t feel congruent with. I was doing the same thing with all of my studies. For instance, my school psychology had I.Q. testing and tracking; pigeonholing people according to certain tests, which just did not resonate with me. The more I gave the tests and the more I looked at the questions I thought, “Well, this is all judgment. It’s all evaluation.” It was all “yuck.” It just didn’t feel congruent with the core of my being. Urban planning was a very future oriented program and I had to analyze all these factors and project to plan for traffic control, et cetera, but once again it didn’t resonate. It was so “off in the future” and I was more and more moving in the direction of spontaneity and trying to listen to my intuition, and trust, and make decisions that way.
So, job experiences are a construct. What we believe is out-pictured there. As I started to shift my mind about my concept about myself, then I started to seem to get jobs that were a little more loose and I’d seem to have a little more freedom and I seemed to have a little more responsibility in each job. Until the last formal job I had was teaching a four hour psychology class where I basically had free reign to do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t have any kind of curriculum constraints. I was able to pick the text I wanted, use the material I wanted, show movies in class and use experiential exercises. It was in an art institute and the director basically just gave me free reign and he didn’t even sit in during class to see what I was doing. So, I thought, “O.K. Spirit, let’s go!” It wasn’t like any job I had ever had before. A long sequence of jobs where each one seemed to be a one in which I was able to do a little bit more.
What the Course teaches is if we change our minds, automatically the situations will seem to out-picture more of the fluidity and less rigidity and structure. And, that’s good news because when you’re working with the Course, sometimes you think, “how is this ever going to relate to my job?’. It’s like the mind tries to say “Course in Miracles/job; oh boy, these two are not ever going to come together.” One time I was asking this guy who was channeling one of the people that they channel, “How am I going to become enlightened and still stay at the corporation?” And the being said, “You won’t be at the corporation when you’re enlightened.” It’s one of these things of don’t try to project ahead and project what it looks like now and fit it in with enlightenment. I think another great example of that was Khrishnamurti, who was a spiritual man who taught for 60 or 70 years all over on different continents on the globe, and it was kind of like he didn’t belong to anything. You’d say, “Well, what about a group of friends?” There were people who would follow him but he didn’t believe he was a guru and he didn’t believe in disciples. So that put an end to those kinds of things. Countries loved what he said; it was so profound that they tried to claim him: “You live here, right?” “No.” “You live here?” “No.” India, London, California… when he would speak he would speak of all these things, institutions, governments, relationships from such a detached point of view as if they weren’t real in a solid sense, as if they were just a bunch of ideas that, if there was enough intention, could be sunk beneath and gone beyond. And, as I’ve gone on in my life that’s literally the way it seemed. It seems like the cause and effect thing had started to turn around, in the sense that, more and more, as I start to just travel the country and just speak about the Course and just do what I’ve always wanted to do, that I never knew what it was….just follow this in to the very depths and just speak on it. It’s just such a joy meeting the people and going into it and feeling the connectedness and everything that everything else just started to fall away.
We got into male/female issues. Whether you get into issues that the world sees as important; abortion or gun control or nuclear stuff or political stuff, more and more you start to see things as ideas and that these things are ideas in my own mind. It’s a radical idea because it seems so much like, “Wait a minute. I’m just this one tiny little person walking on this globe and there seem to be these vast forces outside of me; economic forces—how is the job market doing—and there are forces like diseases, nutrition, shortages of water and war. When Saddam Hussein fired his missiles there were a lot of thoughts like, “Oh, what if he goes after the oil and shuts off the oil and what would that do this to the economy.” There is all this interdependent building of cards, like a house of cards and it’s all very teetery. One big blow could knock the whole thing over. People talk about nuclear disaster growing up. “What if the superpowers get into a confrontation?” And it all seems to be external forces.
So, here we come with the Course. And, now it’s saying not only that your mind is causative—that you’re responsible for your state of mind—but, he’s saying that the world that you see, the whole thing, is made up in your mind. In Lesson 76 he gets real specific. He starts rattling off these beliefs, “You believe in laws of friendship.” There’s that friendship thing. “Oh, my gosh. I’ve got beliefs in laws of friendships. Maybe I don’t even know my friends as they are.” He says your laws of friendships are all tied into reciprocity. Those are the only relationships we’ve known in this deceived state of mind. I’ll do this but, you do this and we’ll kind of compromise. It seems like a good thing in this world and yet compromise is based on give a little, lose a little and he’s saying there’s a way in which everyone gains. There’s a way of seeing the world in which everyone gains. Besides the laws of economics there are laws of nutrition. If we went around the room everybody could not only give what their diets are, but maybe even an evolution of their diets. Some of us have gone through some interesting routes in diet. He just says what he said two thousand years ago, it’s not what you put in your mouth that defiles the heart. He gets real specific in the Course and he basically says the laws of nutrition are made up in your own mind. There isn’t some kind of an objective world out there with objective nutrition laws that you have to eat five food groups, or balanced meals, or eat a macrobiotic diet. These are laws that are made up in our mind. Some of the yogis from the east have gone without eating. Ram Dass tells a story about his guru putting all these drugs down his mouth and just being unaffected by the hallucinogenics. Clearly, there are lots of those kinds of things that point to mind over matter, and that is what Jesus is pointing to in the Course. He’s saying, “You have a very powerful mind and you’ve given it to a lot of foolish beliefs. Now I’m going to try to show you what they are and you can come and see how foolish they are. And, when you are able to see how foolish they are like I did, then you will have dominion over the earth. You won’t be this little thing that’s constantly battling and fighting for survival. You will literally have dominion over the earth.
There are a lot of parts in the Course that are mind boggling. For instance, if this is true, if the world is projected from my own mind, then the problem is entirely within my own mind. The national debt and world hunger and the AIDS crisis, et cetera. It seems like there are all these enormous problems on so many different levels: interpersonal conflicts, disease, where they study the micro level, the molecule and the cellular level; they seem to find all these mutations, there seems to be all these problems down there. And, there seem to be problems at the national level and at the global level. Basically in Lesson 79 and 80 Jesus says, “There’s no way you could ever solve the problem the way you see the problem because it seems to be on so many different levels that it’s just impossible. But, the good news is that there is only one problem and there is only one solution.” Doesn’t it make sense that if there was such a thing as truth that it would be simple and not complicated?
So here comes this teaching, along with all this stuff that just seems to make your head swim if you watch the news or you get caught in it. It just seems overwhelming. Here it comes down to one problem, one solution. The one problem being the belief in separation, that tiny mad idea, that little puff that’s been given power, that’s been believed to be true. That’s the one problem, and the one solution is the Holy Spirit that is literally sitting right next to where the problem is in the mind and shining it away; just like when you go into a dark room and turn on the light—the darkness is gone. The Course teaches us that as soon as the separation seemed to happen the Holy Spirit was given as an antidote and the whole thing was solved in an instant; one instant. Not trillions of years: one instant. But the mind—instead of accepting the Holy Instant as the answer—the mind took off running, running to the world, running to the world of form terrified. The Holy Spirit is constantly in our minds just reminding us, “He loves you. It’s a silly idea. You could never separate from your father. It’s impossible. It’s literally impossible.” It’s a gentle reminder that even though the mind is kind of running to form and has stacked on layers of complexity; built up all these make-believe laws of time and space and bodies and diseases and architecture of buildings—constant layers of complexity—there is still this simple little light in our mind, telling us that it couldn’t happen, that it’s an impossible thing, and it’s also calling us to return, calling us back to where we truly live, which is in Heaven.
So this cause and effect has to be reversed. When the mind is in a deceived state it has completely forgotten the Holy Spirit and it has completely forgotten Heaven. So, the Holy Spirit knows that the mind believes in specifics now. The Holy Spirit knows that the mind believes in bodies and things and objects. So, the Spirit will use these symbols to help to guide the mind back to that place of abstract knowledge, or what the Course calls the real world. That’s why it’s important for us to talk about drawing it back. It always seems helpful to go over the underlying metaphysics and to go over it and over it, because it always comes back to that. But it doesn’t seem that way to the deceived mind. If you’re having a temper tantrum and you feel like you’ve got to pay the rent and the rent is coming due, it’s like, “That’s a nice story, but I need some cold hard cash here in a month.” It certainly doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Things just don’t seem to be what they are. But we need to start with problems that we are perceiving in our lives and then work it back. The first thing you can do if you’re perceiving a problem at work or your perceiving a problem with a relationship is remind yourself this is a perceptual problem. In other words, instead of trying to define the problem as the situation, as “I don’t have enough money to pay the rent” or as “my boyfriend’s threatening to leave me” or “it’s been raining for three or four straight days and I’ve been going out of my mind waiting for some sun and I’m frustrated”. Those are all defining the problem as a specific situation. The first thing you can do is remind yourself that this is all a perceptual problem. The way I’m seeing it is the problem. There’s nothing inherently wrong about what is going on in the world—the way things are unfolding. The National Debt might seem to be billions and billions of dollars but, I have a perceptual problem. AIDS may seem to be spreading and spreading and spreading but, I have a perceptual problem. I need the rent money in two days and I don’t know where to get it but, I have a perceptual problem. If you could just remember, Ah, it’s a perceptual problem!
I’ll give some examples of this to try to bring it home a little bit. Ten people go to a movie and then they sit and have a cup of coffee: “Well, what did you think?” “Well, what did you think?” “I liked it.” “Well, it didn’t do much for me.” Et cetera. Also, I’ll give you the example of when my sister got married and she invited me to her wedding party. It was one of the first times in my life when I really got a grasp on what perception means. All these people from different generations were invited to the wedding party and they were all watching the TV. I was sitting next to it, but I couldn’t see the TV. It was a video of “Eddie Murphy Raw”. I’m looking out and watching all these faces turn red, their lips getting tight and their eyes shifting around: some of it in embarrassment and humiliation, some in outright anger and rage; my brother in law falling onto the floor just rolling over laughing. It was like a painter watching the canvas full of emotions, of different reactions, and I’m thinking, “They’re all watching the same images and they’re all listening to the same sounds, and look at the variety!” It clearly came to me that obviously they were each seeing something different, having different reactions, and they were each giving the meaning to those sounds. It wasn’t the images that were making them laugh, making them cry. That’s the backwards thinking that we’ve all grown up with: you’ve hurt my feelings, or if you hadn’t done what you’ve done I wouldn’t be so hurt.
Participant: They had they’re perceptions based on they’re own past experiences, right? I mean, they were comparing that with whatever happened then. Then what would you say about perceptions? What should we do? Just kind of separate yourself from the past? Just kind of be here now and not think about the past? How can we do that?
Speaker: That’s the next thing we’ll go into because if you can first just say that it’s a perceptual problem, that’s Lesson 2, ‘I have given everything I see all the meaning…’ Then we can take some of the early lessons of the Course, and they’ll light up because what these early lessons are about is literally helping to make connections; my mind is full of past thoughts and these past thoughts are projecting out the world. Like the analogy that we used of going to a movie and here’s the bright light in the projector and the film going through is like the past thoughts—the ideas and beliefs. And, what happens on the screen is what happens when this bright lights passes through those past thoughts. You see a bunch of twisting images on the screen and if there is something wrong with the film it would seem silly to go up there and tinker around on the screen, bang on the screen and say, “What’s wrong with this?” It’s obvious that when there is a glitch, the glitch is in the film. What Jesus is saying is that we need to be able to do that metaphysically, and start to see there is a glitch in our thoughts. The problem is your thoughts. So, what we’ll do is go to some of those early lessons and try to look at how He works and tries to train the mind, and that’s exactly what’s going on because that’s where the release comes in.
Participant: So, we begin with this, just to say, it is a perceptual problem… this is not happening?
Speaker: This is a perceptual problem. You can use it for anything that’s happening and sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s the events doing it to me. For example I’m just sitting at home and all of a sudden, Vrroom, melancholy or depression comes over me.
We have to be trained to see that the world is going on in our minds: the world of images we’re seeing in our minds and those thoughts we’re thinking are the same part of the perceptual problem. It doesn’t matter if somebody is yelling and screaming at you at work, or whether you’re just at home thinking about when someone was yelling and screaming at you. Or, you’re not even in touch with what the thoughts are. You just know you’re feeling yucky or depressed, that there are definitely some past thoughts there that weren’t created by our Father. The mind has anchored into the past thoughts and therefore the emotion is fear or some derivative thereof. It could be envy, jealousy, depression, irritation, et cetera.
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