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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.
Participant 1: …but it's a little foggy.
Speaker: …but it's a little foggy, I want to be precise.
Participant 2: Yeah, what is perception?
Speaker: Well let's throw it out. When people think of perception what comes to mind?
Participant 3: In the Course it's perceived as being individual viewpoint which is coming from support of ego and filtered through the emotional body and generally disinformed by the attitude body and fairly blurrily viewed to the agenda body. [chuckling]
Speaker: So you're saying, ‘very distorted.’ [Laughs]
Participant 3: Well, it could be.
Speaker: And it can be trained to higher states of consciousness to true perception of the real world. So anybody else on perception; anybody want to take a stab at what it means to you?
Participant 4: I couldn't word it like you did.
Participant 5: No I just say how I see things.
Speaker: Perception involves reading meaning into. The second lesson of the Course (which is real basic because they all kind of build upon each other) is,
"I have given everything I see all the meaning that it has for me."
And like you were saying before, it does seem to be kind of this individual thing in the sense that two or three or four people can see an accident happen and then they'll ask for eye witness accounts, “Write down exactly what happened.” And then they write them down and then there we go, we've got, 'Well, this is what the first person saw...' And the Course is saying that every time you’re feeling upset in any way - it could be fear, anger, depression, boredom or whatever – you’re making a decision in the moment and you’re choosing that emotion based on your interpretation, or your perception, of what's happening. [It] makes perfect sense why people could have all of those reactions because … there’s a different filter. [Editors note: “filter” refers to a personal perspective.] And it's definitely a decision. Now when you start to carry this out and you start to apply this in your life… whether it's frustration at work or frustration with the IRS or frustration with in-law's or with the weather or with floods or with anything like, that you can see how backward our perception is. Is everybody kind of following that part about perception? That we don't see anything the way it truly is.
Participant 1: And the reaction is [never] to the fact of it, but to my interpretation of it.
Participant 3: Another reason why it doesn't matter.
Speaker: [Laughs] The motto. It’s the group motto now. It can seem to a lot of people… like, ‘Well wait a minute, things do matter.’
Participant 3: ‘Don't you care?’
Speaker: ‘Don't you care? Don't you have any compassion?’ And it's a fine learning. It gets back to changing your perception. And then when your perception is healed when you're in your right-mind so to speak, whatever your actions are whether it's reaching out in (what the worlds eyes would look like) giving a helping hand or whatever, it's done with purity because the intentions is… you’re not doing it out of guilt. You could go down to an inner city and feel so much guilt about what you’re seeing with homelessness or whatever and just kind of empty your pockets with the intention of guilt like, ‘These people are so much worse off than I am… I feel so bad that I'm going to just give away everything I've got in my pockets to help me feel better.’ And the Course is kind of saying, ‘Well it's not the act of giving money even or the act of doing something that will relieve you of your guilt but it's only by getting clear in your perception that you'll be free of guilt.’
So where does perception come from?
The early lessons of the Course are teaching us [lessons 5,6, and 7] :
"I am never upset for the reason I think."
It's such a good lesson because the first reaction a lot of time when things happen is, ‘I know why I'm upset. I'm upset because...’
Participant 1: ‘The same reason anybody would be upset.’
Speaker: Yeah, ‘Because they did this. Wouldn't you act that way too if somebody did this to you?’
"I see something that is not there."
That would be upsetting. [It’s like a] desert where you see a mirage and you’re hot and thirsty and you go and you think it's an oasis and you get there and it's not there.
Participant 1: More sand.
Speaker: To me those early lessons of the Course are so profound because, "I am never upset for the reason I think. I am upset because I see something that is not there. I see only the past” to use what you’re saying.
If I'm constantly watching the past and I'm getting all upset and it's because, in a sense… the past is where the guilt seems to occur. The past is… that’s the ego's domain and the present is where the Holy Spirit lives. And the mind… just wants to keep calling on the past and believing in its reality...
Participant 1: Rehashing it.
Speaker: Rehashing it. Or like with relationships; I've talked to addiction counselors and they'll talk to people and they'll say there are these patterns that emerge. People will say, ‘I married 5 times and this same thing keeps happening over and over. I try to marry somebody else… but the same things... I married five alcoholics.’ Or it can be with jobs too. You get a job that you think, ‘Ah I hate this job I'm going to get out of this job!’ And then, ‘I hate this job!’ It's like… the past just keeps repeating itself.
So if we get into the dynamics we were just talking about, about perception and thought, what the Course says is that whenever you’re thinking about the past or the future your mind is literally blank because your mind is still with these past thoughts and it projects these thoughts out and that's what the world is; the world is literally the past thoughts in our minds that are projected out into the world [forms]. And so it's no wonder we get upset with what we're seeing with these eyes because we're literally viewing a script, or we're viewing a screen, in which it's just the past; all of our grievances seem to take form. We have all these angry thoughts, these spiteful hateful thoughts in the mind,; and what happens is they’re in the picture show. And in a sense it comes down, real simply, to the thoughts in our mind. We were saying there's just two thought systems; there is the fear-based ego thought and there is the Holy Spirit’s thought. And it comes down to first of all discernment, between the two; I need to be able to tell the difference between the two and then I need to start to let go or withdraw my investment in ego thought.
If I think the ego's offering something to me that's good and useful and helpful, I'm going to want it to stay around; I'm going to hang on to it. So to me, that's what the Course gets at; it starts getting at, ‘How am I tapped into this thing Jesus, and how am I invested in it but I don't know it?’
Participant 1: What's the value in it? To me it's like, what am I seeing here that I want to hang onto because it seems to be worthwhile? I'm not going to let go of something I feel like is worthwhile and gives me something. And as my mind changes then of course I'm going to see proof for… 'the new' [thought system] in my mind. I'm going to see proof for that “out here” on the screen, and so then I have experiences come to me that witness to that new way of thinking in my mind. And so if I open up to the light and if I open up to the safety of trusting, then I'm going to have lots of experiences show up to prove to my mind that that's the case and the reverse is true too; if I have lots of thoughts in my mind that it's not safe to trust then of course what's going to show up is proof that I'm right about that and that it's not safe to trust.
Speaker: So the question is, “What do I want?” It comes down to, “What do I really want?” And at the beginning when you first start working with this stuff it's like, “Yuck! I must really want guilt and fear because I seem to still be perceiving events that seem to witness to that.” And so the Course is just kind of saying, ‘You really need to keep asking that question, going deeper.’
I always tell the story [of when I was] growing up, before the Course and everything; the two things that I wanted in life were freedom and intimacy. I thought, “Oohh that feeling of connectedness and intimacy, I want that, I just want that so much.” And freedom, “I like to soar! I like to feel like there is nothing hanging over me.” And what I did was… it wasn't so much that my goals were wrong… in the Course freedom and intimacy or peace are nice goals but… it was where I was seeking for them, I started to discover, was all twisted.
Participant 1: And how you defined them.
Speaker: And how I defined it.
Participant 3: Didn't you think that freedom and intimacy are juxtaposed, those two particular...
Speaker: Well the way I perceived it was, when I would try to go for the intimacy, that my freedom seemed to be limited.
Participant 3: Well yeah, solitude and freedom I don't think are juxtaposed but intimacy and freedom?
Speaker: Intimacy. It seems very much kind of like… in relationships that was my experience. It's almost like the old ‘ball and chain’ thing about marriage.
Participant 3: Mutually exclusive.
Speaker: Yes, mutually exclusive. I'm discovering through the Course that not only that they aren’t they not mutually exclusive but they’re found in the identical same place... they’re identical. My definition of freedom was, “I want to be able to go where I want to go, do what I want to do, do it how I want to do it and do it when I want to do it.” A real sense of [there] not being any limitations or constraints.
Participant 1: Now does that mean that you would want to then find somebody who would want to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it, right?
That sounds like a fantasy!
Speaker: If you bring in the intimacy part of it, the intimacy part of it says, “Well okay, I want the freedom but I want that feeling of connectedness. I want the feeling of being so close to someone that it's like we know each other’s thoughts. I want that kind of closeness where there is no sense of separation. And of course, I would say that a lot of my intimacy ideas had a lot of romantic ideas tied in there too; I had a lot of things associated … with the body. I [wanted] lots of things that I defined [as] intimacy: Companionship; having somebody there with you… that had a lot to do with my ideas of intimacy. “It's not so easy,” I would say, “to be intimate if she's living in California and I'm living in New York.” My idea of intimacy [was that] bodies must be together under the same roof preferably, as close as possible as long as possible… That was my definition of intimacy.
Now the deeper I've gone into this and gone through relationships and all of the different things and worked with the Course and had a lot of these transformations, is that I find that both of my definitions really were very heavily related to the body. In other words, my definitions of freedom, when I said go anywhere do anything… a lot of it was mobility of the body. I wanted to be able to let this body move around and be free to move, and so freedom was very tied in with freedom of the body. It wasn't so much freedom of the mind, I now see, and intimacy once again… I really related intimacy with these bodies… and it wasn't so much a ‘mind intimacy’ that I defined it in, in terms of sharing thought or sharing the Holy Spirit but it was in terms of just ‘get the bodies together and you’re lucky if you can agree on certain things and have mutual shared interests.’ What I found is that relationship and true intimacy come from following the Holy Spirit and also that's what true freedom is, but it slides against a lot of my ideas of what I thought. I had [hoped] to become a fulfilled person and I found that I had to question an awful lot.
Being used [by the Holy Spirit] as I travel around the country and [go into things with people] there's a real sense of intimacy you feel with people a real connectedness, the thing that I was always searching for, but it's certainly not the form that I had envisioned for it.
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