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Defining Sickness as Ordering of Thought Part 1

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.

David: Well, I just wanted to talk about a couple of things. One of them that we talked about in the Intensive was on sickness and just the whole idea of not to focus attention on symptoms. It’s about really trying to maintain constant vigilance about what can be sick and seeing the temptation of when there’s attention paid to the symptoms. It seems to be easy to slide back into focusing on symptoms. It’s been lots of talk about the temperature in this building. Up and down and so on and so forth. It’s like the old workshop dining room thing; can we keep it in the workshop? Can we really watch our minds and watch the blah, blah, blah and then withdraw our minds from the blah, blah, blah? Withdraw from all the chatter; just trying to be very very attentive to our minds all the time and keep a close watch.

Is there anything in particular that anyone wants to go into? Is there anything over the last day or two that’s been coming up?

Friend: If there’s some way to go into sickness I think that would be helpful for me. I’m concluding since I still have some passing symptoms that I’m not as clear as I could be about this. What else could it mean? And I notice even when I cough, part of me feels like I shouldn’t be coughing, that it’s a bad example every time I cough or blow my nose.

David: So, it’s still a real focus on the symptoms; that you feel self conscious or uneasy or guilty?

Friend: To me, it seems like a failure to have a clear my mind if I’m coughing and blowing my nose.

David: That’s good. You were saying right now you’d like to be clear. That’s important. I also think the tendency when you’re with others and the symptoms seem to manifest, is that you get back into talking about it. I think the best way to deal with them is to go about it, when you aren’t clear and you want to reduce the fear and alleviate your symptoms and distress. If you are at the point where you can’t have a miracle, if you can’t seem to have a mind shift then to do what you need to do with the magic but to be as unobtrusive as possible. It’s just important not to give your mind to sharing the ideas that can’t be shared. Since that’s where false empathy comes in.

Friend: How do you be unobtrusive when you’re hacking your head off?

David: At times, if you’re in a place where you’re hacking, hacking, hacking and you don’t seem to be able to be still enough to reduce it with the miracle, or you have taken magic, and you are feeling very guilty about what is being exhibited, it probably would be the most helpful thing for you to just remove yourself at that point. If you’re feeling very guilty and self-conscious you are making an interpretation that’s fearful and if you continue on without that leaving and feel like you’re not getting this. If you’re feeling that you’re not teaching what you should be teaching, or however you’re interpreting it in your mind, it’s just a state where the fear doesn’t get reduced at all. There’s no shift...

Friend: It kind of snowballs.

David: Yes and then one person that seems to be meaning well asks, how are you doing today? Then it starts with, well should we fix special kinds of foods? and it just goes on and on. It is counter to everything that we just talked about in the Intensive; that it is lending support to something that can’t be shared. So, it’s kind of like a dining room workshop example like, I don’t want to give my mind and share ideas that don’t come from my Father and yet the temptation to just go right along and go ahead and do it, anyway. It has to become clearer and clearer about how it has to be an either/or thing. It can’t be something that you talk about and give lip service to and turn around and slide into. So, it may be helpful in those situations to just remove yourself.

Friend: Isn’t there a way to be in that situation—coughing— and not be fearful? I mean isn’t there a different way of having the same externals but having a different mind set toward it.

David: Yes, That’s the miracle. That’s what we’ll talk about today. We’ll go in to the levels again. But there has to be a total shift in perception for there to be an ease and a comfort about that.

Friend: I guess what I want to get clear on is; is there no other choice when hacking than to leave?

David: A miracle.

Friend: Ok, the miracle. But, if I’m not accepting the miracle then there’s no other choice then to remove myself?

David: You’re saying you’re interpreting yourself as being uncomfortable like you’re feeling guilty or ashamed or something. Is that helpful? Do you find that interpretation helpful?

Friend: No. And what I’m saying is; is there another interpretation to have?

Friend: I don’t think leaving is necessarily a solution in and of itself if I still feel guilty. I could stay or leave but it’s the guilt that is the issue. It’s the interpretation that I’m making that’s the issue, not staying or leaving. But, I think David was just using that as an example to say that if the guilt was greater by staying then leave. But, if the guilt is still there when you leave then leaving is no solution.

David: It’s magic as well. Just like taking a pill or doing something else to move a body in or out is magic in and of itself. But if the mind is too fearful of the miracle then a mixture of magic and miracle is recommended which could be taking the medication. It could be getting up and leaving. It could be anything external; doing something on the outside to try to bring about some sort of relief.

Friend: Sometimes I’ve found that leaving eliminates the discussion of people. When I’ve had symptoms I just don’t put myself in situations where I know people are going to be asking about it or focusing on it because that is not helpful to me. I don’t want people asking me how I’m feeling or focusing on if I’m coughing or blowing my nose or questioning me about that because I don’t want to discuss it.

David: I think too in a lot of our discussions we always say bring it up. It’s a golden opportunity for the mind shift to be able to bring it up where two or more are gathered. To take the opportunity to trace it back and to come just with the intention to get so clear with the belief that there can be a shift of mind. It’s not like we’re coming together with other topics to discuss saying well we won’t discuss that.

Friend: Then you would be giving it power by avoiding it.

David: Right, but if you actually feel willing and comfortable enough to bring it up and then use it as something to go into and get clear on.

Friend: From that point of view, if I hear her coughing I hear it like I hear the refrigerator running, and then I may hear her cough once, but after a while I don’t hear it.

David: Perception is selective.

Friend: Then you can say, she coughed, oh so what! If I start thinking oh she’s sick, she doesn’t believe... She shouldn’t be that sick because she’s a Course student. If I get that then I believe, but I don’t. I don’t feel that way. I just say Oh, she coughed.

David: So the guilt is coming from the interpretation of the symptoms. But, what we’re trying to get at is the idea that the body cannot be sick. A body being sick is the same as a pencil or a shoe being sick. The mind is the thing that can be sick. The wrong mind is sick. But a learning device cannot be sick. It would take an interpretation of the learning device or of the world like that thing of the refrigerator sound vs. the cough. The guilt is coming from the interpretation that’s being given to what’s going on in the screen. It has nothing to do with anything per se.

Friend: What the Course is telling us to do is to overlook the mistakes that are made. We overlook the ego. So, what she is saying is; if somebody’s coughing it’s just a matter of my overlooking it. It’s just a reminder for me. That section in The Healed Relationship that we read has just been on my mind ever since we talked about it. It says the Holy Spirit appreciates your efforts and he recognizes your good efforts on his behalf and he’s overlooked your mistakes. Have you been willing to do the same for your brother… and for myself?! Am I willing to overlook the same thing for myself; to overlook the mistakes that I’m making and appreciate my good efforts? That’s had a real impact on me because I haven’t. I’ve recognized that’s something that I need to really work at because I don’t overlook mistakes. I focus on them and pick them out and point them out to myself. Any symptom is just another mistake. It’s getting into that order of difficulty too. That’s saying that if you cough that’s different then if you had breast cancer. Then, your mind is less healed or more healed. It’s just a mistake.

Friend: So, the mistake is really to associate coughing with sickness.

Friend: The mistake is we think the body can be sick!

Friend: What I notice too, is somehow it seems different in my mind if I’m coughing or if it really hurts when I cough because for as long as I can remember I’ve blown my nose. I don’t really think of that as being sick. It’s just blowing my nose. When I sneeze I don’t think of that as being sick. It’s just sneezing. But, somehow if it hurts, I associate that with sickness.

Friend: That you’re doing something wrong. You have to make yourself guilty.

Friend: You have to make yourself feel guilty. Ok, if blowing your nose doesn’t do it then I’ll give you something that does?

Friend: Is that what’s going on?

Friend: Sounds like it.

David: Well, pain is a great evidence for the separation being real. The ego interprets pain as punitive. That proves you’re small, your frail, you’re weak and you’re vulnerable. It proves the body is powerful over the mind because obviously the body is telling you how to feel whether it’s in the throat or whatever.

But that’s why we get to the question of purpose. That’s the whole point. When you can get to the idea of How do I look upon the body? What am I using the body for? And you can take it to a broader realm of looking at your whole life under this thing of purpose. How I use the body, how I see the body. Do I just see it as insignificant and completely apart from me and as a learning device or are there ways in which it still seems very important to me. That’s why it’s really important to go into that.

Maybe we can go in using the vehicle of talking about sickness and try to go in as deeply as we can and try to get clearer and clearer on this. To see a chair as a chair is sick, to see a clock as a clock is sick. In the ultimate sense, to see anything as if it has a separate existence in and apart from everything else is sick. It’s a sick interpretation. But, you see how different that is in the world’s eyes of seeing a body as sick. Yes, a chair is a chair; a clock is a clock and a sick person is a sick person because they have symptoms that let us know that they’re sick vs. a healthy person. It’s the mind that’s breaking the world up into little boxes and categories. That’s sick. We have to see that that’s where the sickness lies. Much less reading meaning into particular symptoms; saying that some bodies are sicker than others, that cancer is much more serious than the flu or hang nail. There are all those different categories. But, it goes much much deeper than coughs and stuff like that.

What I popped open to was lesson 136 in the Workbook. It’s kind of a spring board today. And just as a preliminary to this, we get back to the self-concept stuff. If the mind believes it’s guilty and it’s so determined to hang on to that concept that to it sickness seems like a very small price because if it is a witness that the body can tell the mind how to feel; it is a witness that the smallness, the puniness, that the vulnerability must be true.

Friend: And that it’s in charge.

David: So, it can come back to something as subtle as I wanted things to be this way instead of that way. All that we’ve talked about; our ordering of thought and our preferences. The mind that believes it can order its own thought is a mind that is sick. But, it doesn’t want to see how sick that is. It doesn’t want to see that it’s wrong. So, by making it seem as if things happen to the body that have totally no connection to the mind, completely without the mind’s intention then that is just another witness or proof of its vulnerability, that guilt is justified.

“No one can heal unless he understands what purpose sickness seems to serve for then he understands as well its purpose has no meaning. Being causeless and without a meaningful intent of any kind it cannot be at all. When this is seen healing is automatic.”

So, it’s really bringing it back to the mind to just what is the cause of sickness. Even if you define it in terms of the wrong mind; the wrong mind is a sick interpretation of reality. The wrong mind is kind of an assertion that says I am what I wish to be instead of as God created me. When it says, “Being causeless and without a meaningful intent of any kind it cannot be at all.” It ultimately has to trace back to, Where did this come from? Did it come from God? That’s the ultimate question it comes back to every time. It’s just that simple.

Friend: I’ve used this and other section in the Course to feel guilty because I think I see that but I’ve had times when healing was not automatic. In that other section in the Manual where it says if the patient even suspected this they would be healed instantly. I certainly have suspected it. I certainly feel that I have a clue what’s going on, but sometimes then I think well, I must be kidding myself. I must not really understand it at all because I’m not healed instantly.

David: If you see it in one context it can seem frustrating. It’s kind of like our trip when we went to buy some equipment and noticing the frustrations coming up about the attendant who seemed to be waiting on us. Once again, it’s that whole backwards thinking thing. It’s like judging, engaging based on appearances. You first see the attendant appear. The attendant has eyes wandering maybe, or you ask a direct straight forward question and you see a sort of pause or hesitation and the mind is concluding immediately.

Friend: You don’t know anything about this stuff.

David: Concluding that or What’s he doing here and the frustration, now the goose chase and the frustration of the time there begins. But, you can see when you take little incidents like that you start to see by golly I keep reading meaning into everything that I see! You can see the mind is just looking with the littlest things, reading meaning all the time. That kind of throws it into a different context of, if you suspected that these are just dream figures; that I’m just giving them meaning and that meaning has no meaning at all in reality. The scenario of going shopping, expecting an attendant to know what they’re doing. It kind of throws it into a larger kind of a context than that.

Friend: So, I guess if I were to follow this every step of the way what you’re saying is to always be watching the meaning that I’m giving to everything. That that’s tied into it too in the smallest way. Any meaning that I’m giving to anything is tied into…

Friend: Has a sick mind, any meaning that I’m giving to anything.

Friend: Yes, just like it’s causeless and without meaningless intent of any kind, all of it.

David: These scenarios—going shopping for audio equipment scenario—that’s not what it’s about. It has nothing at all to do with that. That’s the thing that will get done just like with the grocery shopping and the other things. It will still get done but it cannot be the focal point or the intention because if it is then forgiveness isn’t. Then my one function is on a back burner, or on a side burner at least, because the mind is set; it’s going to do something and it’s got an objective in mind. Whether it’s to buy this thing or to learn as much as one can about how to use it from a knowledgeable trained professional, it doesn’t really matter what expectations go in there. If you think about that kind of a scenario it’s still that opportunity to go there, to hold the intention and to just remove all kind of judgment from the script, from the scenario about how it should go. When I think I know how it should be going then that’s where the trouble starts. Because then the frustration comes up where This is not optimal. This is less than optimal. I’ve defined what optimal is and this in the mind’s judgment is not meeting the mark. You can see where impatience or frustration would come in with that. Someone may say, Wait a minute you’re getting way off the track now what does that have to do with sickness? You can see where it has everything to do with sickness. That’s exactly what it is. You could also say, this is awful tiny and picky. Gosh, it seems awfully small, but in the end that’s all we have to go for. We have to keep trying to train our minds to hold that intention and to let go of everything we think we know. I know another golden opportunity was when he was ringing up all these things at the end. This thing about price; it’s just funny to see how the mind flips and jumps with that and things about well we’re using another fella’s charge card and you know how the mind can just go this is the way it’s got to work out and he’s merely just ringing it all up and coming up with his figures and just to notice if there’s anything going on. I know you just finally said, “I want to leave; is it ok if I just go out and sit in the car?” How were you feeling? Was it all a whirl or was there frustration involved at that time.

Friend: Well, I was just feeling like it was useless for me to be there. It wasn’t the most helpful thing and I had felt some frustration and I had felt some impatience and I did have some judgment about this man’s lack of expertise. I did have second thoughts about how it would have been just as helpful if we had just brought everything home and played with it. All that time that we spent there with him didn’t seem particularly beneficial. A lot of it was just standing around looking at each other time.

David: So, there was obviously a holy encounter there, right? Every encounter we have is a holy encounter and what is it that obscures the holy encounter?

Friend: Expectation and judgment and interpretation.

David: Interpretation. I mean this is the holiest of all encounters because every encounter we have is simply an opportunity to see our brother completely without the past. Take away Radio Shack salesman, that’s a learned concept. Take away Radio Shack. Take away competent or incompetent. Take away wasted time, ideas of looking at one another.

Friend: I did have the thought it would be much more beneficial to be sitting in the living room doing this then standing there looking at each other at Radio Shack.

David: That’s another one. See, it’s the mind wanting to flip back to there’s something much much more productive I could be doing or there’s another place I could be and it’s that thing about what is the purpose? Holding the purpose out in front and then the other things seem to get done anyway vs. wanting to jump with the mind and saying If I was always just sitting around talking on the Course then I would always be happy.

Friend: That thought was in my mind about making all these interpretations. Well, it would be much easier just to not go anywhere and not have to deal with all these people that don’t meet my expectations, that don’t fulfill my interpretation about how it should be. And yet that’s no answer either because I have to have those opportunities to practice.

David: It’s kind of like if you put it in Course terms; only God’s plan for Salvation will work. What is God’s plan for Salvation?! Change your mind about your mind. That’s it. That’s it. In this instant, change your mind about your mind. Then there’s the ego’s plan. If something had happened differently, if someone acted differently, if I was in a different place, if this event had happened, if this circumstance was different than it is; something on the screen has to change but the only thing that doesn’t change in the ego’s plan is changing my mind about my mind. That I don’t have to do; I can be right about who I think I am and something on the screen has to change. That kind of lays it out. There’s God’s plan. There’s the ego’s plan. And he says, this is one of the lessons, this seems preposterous to you but in fact you will see that you do believe in the preposterous if you observe your life, if you observe you mind. That that’s precisely what you’re trying to do all the time is you’re trying to change something external to bring about salvation and it will never work. Obviously, that’s going to cost the whole world that you think you know and the whole world you think you see.

Friend: So, talk about this idea of what’s most useful. I guess I want some clarity on it. When to really hold that in front of me and when I’m using that as an excuse or an escape or a judgment.

David: Well, you can put it in the context in the Stages of the Development of Trust. First you go through the stage where you start to have a sense that everything is helpful. Wherever the body seems to be, whatever it seems to be doing. Everything is helpful. The next step is about increasing the helpfulness. What will increase the helpfulness? It’s still a phase though where it’s obviously an illusion because the mind still thinks it knows in some sense what is most helpful, what will actually increase the helpfulness. It’s really like a stepping stone. But the next stage is the realization that all the teacher of God wanted was to let go of the false and to accept the true but he has no sense of what the false and the true are. His mind is still so tied into sacrifice and so tied into the belief of the reality of form that he still doesn’t know. So, that early stage of what do I do to increase the helpfulness is really still a very early stepping stone because it still involves changing circumstances to suit.

Friend: I get the feeling that if I’m really truly holding to my purpose and that’s my only focus and that’s my only intention and I’m really doing it, it won’t matter. Being in the Radio Shack, buying audio equipment could be just as great a place to be as sitting here talking. Sometimes I think I make an interpretation that it’s easier to stay on my purpose and maybe I made a further interpretation of saying that makes it more helpful to be here doing this than it is at Radio Shack or wherever. But, I think it comes back to, if I’m really doing my part then I can have a holy encounter anywhere. It’s not a matter of what’s easiest. Because if it’s easiest to hold my intention by just staying in my house and never going out and never really having any contact with anybody then is that really helpful? Yes, it might be easier to do it that way. But, I don’t know that it would necessarily be as helpful and I don’t know that I would really be doing what’s being asked of me; if I would really be changing my mind. And so I think for me I’m seeing that it always comes back to holding that intention. It’s not about where I am or what I’m doing. That can enter in, but the most important thing is being clear on my function and on my purpose and it seems that sometimes that’s harder to do when I’m somewhere like Radio Shack.

David: It’s a very subtle ego draw to want to make a haven to hide from the guilt. The Course talks about it in terms of a special love relationship but you could have a student on the spiritual path trying to find the easiest most helpful path and still kind of sliding into that haven of when I’m in such and such a setting and it’s quiet and we can sit around and comfortably talk I want to stay in that kind of environment forever because that is most helpful when actually it’s really about just staying attentive. You could use any situation that seems to be on the screen to instantaneously bring it back and look at your reaction and use that as a starting point to say, Gee, I’m making an interpretation of this particular situation that is hurting me right now. And it gets away from wanting to find a place to do a certain activity or something that will be most helpful. Are we getting at this or is there still something?

Friend: I feel like there’s still something but I don’t know what it is or I don’t know what question to ask.

Friend: Well, I think that I’m feeling similar feelings that you are in the sense that questioning what is helpful. What is most helpful and not always being clear on that. But, I think it’s a matter of just being attentive to watching my mind with that issue. If I feel like I’m having to make all kinds of arrangements and accommodations and really work hard at finding what’s most helpful, then that’s a clue that I’m trying to arrange things too much. And I think at this point I may have to just have clues and watch myself to see where I’m stepping over the line from what’s most helpful to where I’m making an interpretation of what’s most helpful. Does that make any sense?

Friend: I think that for me sometimes I feel like maybe something would be more helpful and then the thought that comes in is just go with the flow. It’s not your place to rearrange the river. Just go with what’s going on and know that everything is in divine order and I guess my question is; I don’t know about that. I don’t know if that’s just a cop out. Is that just doing what’s easiest? Or is that really going with what’s at hand? I guess I just don’t know and don’t know if I trust my own sense of that.

I mean when we were at our friend’s last week I guess there were many times that I had this sense that it would be really helpful to come together and go into things and I thought that was part of the reason that we were staying there because they really wanted to do that, but then in fact they were hardly ever there. So, everyday I kind of got up and thought well, just go with the flow today. I mean if we’re supposed to do things with our friends I guess they’ll be here and that’s what will happen and everyday it didn’t happen. So, at what point do I say let’s do something here that’s not just happening. It’s not any different than the conversation that we had this morning really. We were saying we can just lilt along here for three or four days and the opportunity is here to go into things if that’s what we want to do.

Friend: Did you ever talk to our friends and say This is the opportunity that I’m feeling. Are you interested?

Friend: Well, a lot of times they would say they were going to be home tomorrow. But, we’d get up and they weren’t there or they’d leave a note that said we’ve gone to a meeting and we’ll be right back and they wouldn’t come back until 1 o’clock.

David: See the frustration always comes from our own interpretation. Remember, there’s nothing that’s happening out there. If you have eagerness or an intent in something like this morning when I said, “This is precious time. I would like to use this opportunity. I’m willing to read or do some other things.” And you said you had assumed that I just wanted quiet time. I was telling you, “No, this is a golden opportunity to go into things.” Just to call our friend and just to see if there’s interest in doing that as well. But, the second guessing and the frustration; there’s still something unspoken or unsaid that needs to be looked at. Even if you’re feeling frustrated and you’re eager to go into something and someone appears not so eager or whatever. It’s always about watching our own mind. That’s what the lesson is. It’s not about trying to reach somebody else. Whenever the frustration comes in or the impatience it’s because of still having in our minds a scenario, even in a subtle way of how it would be most helpful or how things should go.

Friend: I see that and then it’s like as long as I say let’s just go with the flow then I don’t have any expectations and I don’t get frustrated generally. Maybe I do.

Friend: I was thinking I did go with the flow but then at the end of the week when it felt like the flow didn’t go anywhere.

David: Ah! There we go. You see that? If we follow it in; that’s the whole point of what we’re doing.

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