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Putting the ideas into Practice - A Q and A session
David: At the beginning, we talked about if the Course is not practical, if you can't use it and apply it to your life then what good does it do? So, if there are any questions or issues that you are having in your own life, that you feel comfortable talking about, as you're perceiving it, we can try to trace it back a little bit into the mind. That’s how we can get at some of the beliefs and misperceptions.
It's kind of like a spiritual psychotherapy. Basically you don't go to a therapist and say “oh I don't know what to believe about God and the nature of the universe”. Hopefully there is a pretty specific group of problems that you start with. What the therapist calls 'the presenting problems', you know those are things the patient has to start off with. Believing in this world, everyone here believes they have specific problems, so if we use that as a springboard we can work it back into the mind and it can be a really helpful tool.
Q: I have this tendency to start brightly in the morning, feeling good, reading the Course, you know a major spiritual awakening, feeling connected to God and everything. And just whatever's going on right now, just a combination of my life's work and circumstances the way they are, you know, I might not say “boo” to anybody until 5 o'clock. I practice a lot and I prepare for my lessons and recitals and things that I do and give. I don't go to any office or work. I have time to read and really get into these things that I'm reading you know, The Course and Krishnamurti and all the related things, and so there just seems to be a pattern of like around 5 o'clock, you know, it just sucks. I put this all away, forget it and go run out and have some ego party, or becoming down, or going out and getting ice cream, just something like that, and it's just like a pattern where by night fall it's different. I could sit there and say that I wish that wasn't the case, not that it's not fun or pleasant, it's just the way things are right now. If I think of the alternatives, I think I am not doing the right thing you know, should I have a job or more people around? Of course, that's seeking an answer out in the world. So anyway, it's not like I don't want to because I think I must or it wouldn't be happening But it's kind of a paradox, let’s say an alcoholic is a very extreme example of somebody who wants to stop drinking but keeps choosing to drink. In my case, I wouldn't have it this way but yet I would. So anyway, the question is moving through that. I realise in moments of clarity that when I'm ready to let it go I'll let it go, and it will be gone. But a lot of times and in many ways I choose to retain patterns of behaviour that are ongoing, and I really prefer to stay in a state of pain sometimes and just stay there. So the question is moving through that; I want to move through that.
David: When I heard you talking, the way that you were describing it, the initial part about working, studying, reading, plunging into stuff, sometimes not seeing anybody until 5 o'clock and then just feeling satiated and like I got to get out, break out of this and everything. Again it’s the same dichotomy whereby the ego breaks the day into two parts; the first part until 5pm, and the second part after 5pm. A lot of times it’s a common experience in the worker day world, you know, Monday to Friday, there's “my time” and there's “their time”, and when 5 o'clock comes around it’s “my time”, or weekends “I can’t wait!”,and “thank God it's Friday!”. These are all categories that the ego uses to break things up as if there was a “my time” and “their time”, or a “study time” and a “party time”. Whereas, it’s the more we lay aside the judgements and take on the Holy Spirit's function, it's God's time all the time. There's a mindset that comes into that.
I remember last time you said “my God, the thoughts that go through my mind when I am practising!”. You were aware of all these thoughts, like judgement thoughts and different things going through. Really, what it comes down to is a “24 hour a day, 7 days a week” job so to speak in a metaphorical sense, in that the mind is very active and very powerful. These judgement thoughts are like trains. You hop on the train for a while and when you try meditating you're able to get back and you go “hmmm” and hop off, but before you know it you're back on another train, like “Oh and Edna, why did she have to do that?....” [David acts out the motions of a train] and “I spoke to so-and-so that I was going to do that today. I better get going... and if I don't do it....” you know, it's like trains that you hope and you ride them. The good thing about it is regardless of the form whether it be studying, practicing, studying to the point where you can't read another line and then going out and whooping it up, remember that's that form-content distinction again. That's all the stuff that's going on on the screen, and really it’s a matter of just getting in touch with those thoughts, being able to watch those thoughts. And from studying the Course more and more learning to notice thoughts that are backward thoughts where “I have to do this” or “I should do this”. Kind of constricting thoughts that are fear based, “I have to do this/I should do this or else the consequences will be this or that”. The majority of the thoughts in our minds, when they are untrained, are full of those thoughts that have fear of consequences behind them.
Q: Who administers the consequences? We do ourselves. Nobody is there to bash you, you're bashing yourself.
David: It can seem as if there are other people. For instance, if you talk with your mother on the phone everyday and you decide that no, this day I have something else I want to do, it seems that mom may have a reaction to that like “why didn't you call me?”. And it seems as if people are doing things to us, and events and things are happening to us which are completely beyond our control. It's like the mind in a deceived state says, “I'm innocent. I didn't deserve to be treated like that person treated me”, when in actuality the mind is deceived and believes it has separated from God, it has guilt. It actually believes it pulled off the impossible. It believes it was able to usurp the ability of God and to pull away from the Kingdom of Heaven, to leave the Garden of Eden. It really is convinced of this and in that sense it's a horrifying thought, it's a really guilty thought. The Course says that it is not true. The Holy Spirit is gently reminding the mind, “It's ok, He loves you, your Father loves you, you could never pull off such a silly thing as usurping your Father's ability or taking over God's role as the Creator”.
It’s silly but mind is very convinced about that. So if we take it from that point, the mind then believes in separation and that separation has occurred, that the fall of man etc, is very real. Then it projects that thought out on to the screen which is the world, and basically if the mind is guilty it will call forth witnesses in the world to reinforce the belief that it is guilty. So it believes it is guilty, calls forth witnesses and by its interpretation of what's happening it seems to be guilty. It seems that there are these mean people and bad people and forces. There seems to be evil out in the world happening to you, when really it’s just the mind that believes it’s guilty calling fourth witnesses to that. Now the good news is that when you start to let go of the false beliefs and you start to get past the insanity of the beliefs and let go of the guilt, the mind becomes healed and it will call fourth witnesses from the world to show a healed mind, or to show that guilt is not the reality of it. You start to see everything as a holy encounter, and that's the good news. Remember it gets back to the interpretation, that's the only thing that's changing.
Q: Do you have an example of that? How you changed your mind about something and started looking at it differently, and it seemed like what you were looking at actually changed? Can you think of times when that have happened? Because I think we've all had experiences like that, and that's really the power of turning the thinking around is having that experience.
Jean: It was the first year I was teaching, there was this little boy and he was an extremely irritating little child to me and we had this supervisor that came in to watch the new teacher. She called me aside after class was over one day and she said, “you don't really like that child do you?” and I said, “well he is really so unappealing” and she said, “Do you suppose that he chooses to be unappealing?” and I said, “I hadn't really thought about it but I don't expect he does” and she said, “Well I tell you what you are going to do”. She didn't ask me if I wanted to, she said, “you're going to put that child on the front row seat and every time you pass him you're going to pat him on the back or stroke his hair or take his hand or make some kind of contact between the two of you to let him know that you're learning to care about him”. And so since she was the boss I thought I had better do it since she would be back. So I moved him to the front row and I patted him and he began to change. Do you suppose HE began to change? So, you know, you really do look at things differently. He was still the same kid of course, and behaved, I'm sure, in exactly the same way but I changed the way I thought about him. At the end of the year, he was the only child I cried when we said goodbye, he was the only that brought tears.
Q: As you know the Course says that changing your behaviour doesn’t help because it's in your mind. And yet sometimes introducing a behaviour seems to have an effect on your mind. Or does it?
David: The Course is saying that it's never that way; it would be part of the backwards thing. But what it is saying is that changing your mind or your perception, when you see something differently, then your interpretation of the situation is different and the behaviours will change automatically because of the change of interpretation. But it doesn't mean we have the power to change other people's behaviour. That would get back to the old voodoo kind of thing, (you've heard of the stories of the voodoo doll and you poke it with pins etc). Basically what the Course is teaching is that in a metaphorical sense, you and all you brothers have equal minds, they are equally powerful. No brother has a more powerful or less powerful mind than another. So, in a sense you can’t influence your brother's mind positively or negatively. At one point Jesus even says that he can't take your fear away, he can help remove the misperceptions from your mind but if he could just take your fear away from you without you choice or volition, that would be interfering with the most basic law of cause and effect; that you thoughts are causative and that the thoughts you chose determine your state of mind. So it's a great example in the Course where Jesus is saying that your mind is as powerful as his, and that I can't tinker with that basic law of cause and effect. He says, I can't take your fear away but I can help guide you and show you your misperceptions and help you erase those from your mind, which will reduce the fear. And with the Holy Spirit I can help discern between the true and the false to be able to recognise the false and let go of it but I can't intervene.
It sure is a different interpretation than Jesus as a deity somehow up on higher level. He just says in the Course that he is an elder brother, that he's equal to us always, except in time. He seems to be on a vertical axis of rising up to God and laying aside the ego. He seems to be higher, but the vertical axis is in time and basically he says time is an illusion. Time is part of the ego's system so in fact we are complete equals.
Audience comment: So in Jean's case, where her boss basically ordered her to make a change in her behaviour, was really ordering her to make a change in her mind? And when Jean effected a change in behaviour, perhaps it's simply that the part of her mind that recognizes love, which was already in there, recognized the change in behaviour as representing what was already in her mind? So she just started listening to something else in her mind that was already in there?
Jean: Well, what was already in my mind kicked in, you know! I understood what was happening.
David: There is a good section in the Manual for Teachers which talks about whether changes are required in the teachers of God's situation. And the first sentence is: “Changes are required in the minds of the teachers of God”. Basically it says in some cases there will be a change in external circumstances. But to bring it back to the example: Remember how we talked about the Mind as being this very deep thing. I don't know if you were here at the beginning, but we described it as a very big sky scraper with the decision maker at the basement who's choosing between the ego and Holy Spirit at every instant. When one has willingness for shift of mind it may seem to be that the externals are actually being the impetus or pushing us. In other words, sometimes people have an experience of feeling like they don't belong in a particular job but they feel too afraid to leave. They feel too afraid to leave but they really feel like they need to, and so it goes on and on and on, until eventually they get fired. So one could say that getting fired from that job was the impetus you need to go on to that new job or whatever you need. Whereas the Course brings it back to the mind; that it all has to do with our mind's willingness to open up to the Holy Spirit. And it certainly seems a lot of times that there's an external impetus like a spouse leaving or a change of job, and it seems like it’s the outside but that's just an interpretation. It really comes back to our own mind's decision, that our minds make the decision at a very deep level and then whatever is out-pictured in terms of even a boss coming to you and asking you to do something can seem to be thing that really triggered it but it brings it back to our own responsibility again.
Q: Do you find that people who want to take full responsibility, and yet still believe in the illusion, start feeling more and more guilty because they know that they are responsible?
David: Yeah, I think that's a level confusion again. I think the biggest case that I find as I travel around is the sickness. Here you are and you’re studying and using a tool that is starting to say that everything is a decision in your mind. There is no external God that is punishing you and zapping you with aids and cancer, etcetera. You start to see more and more that the medical model you know, you catch germs and all these things, or sun rays, you've got to put the sun cream on etc doesn’t do anything. Here comes Jesus and he is basically saying that everything is a decision in your own mind, that there nothing outside in the world that's bringing about any of this. That's a big turnaround.
So if everything is a decision and I have the ability to make those decisions then when sickness comes up, when people start getting symptoms whether it’s cancer or even a cold or flu, then the ego is very happy to see the mind go through a guilt trip. Because the mind is thinking: Well if my mind is making decisions and it’s causative and I'm sick, oh my gosh! I am making myself sick, and then it can be like a loop. But what it really is is a level confusion again because it's still a misidentification with the “I”, “I am making MYSELF sick” i.e. the body, the tiny idea of myself. The mind is still believing it’s still a little person and that's where the mistake is coming in. In other words, the Course is teaching us that we are infinite, that we are magnitude, that we are Spirit, that we are abstract light. You may have heard about near death experiences where people talk about this brilliant white light of unconditional love, in a sense the Course is saying that's what your true identity is. The Christ is Spirit Created in the image of the Father. The Father is Spirit, the Son is Spirit. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite. But with sickness or something like that, the tendency is, “oh my gosh, if I'm responsible!” I take that principle and “oh my gosh, look at this body, look what I'm doing!” and you take that principle and you put those two together, self responsibility and “look what I'm doing” sickness, and there's guilt. Really it just comes down to that it’s still a misperception of who I think am. Misidentification is what it comes down to. I've had mind shifts and miracles, where it’s just been an instantaneous shift in my mind; symptoms have just left my body in an instant. Those are very powerful personal witnesses for me that he's not fooling in here, ha-ha. I use the example with the flu where the thoughts are it will take 24-48 hours to get over this bug, etc, and then having such a powerful shift that all the symptoms, the nausea, the diarrhoea and everything in an instant [clicks fingers] disappears. It just shows the power of the mind.
Also what the Course calls magic is the medical model: operations, pills, etc, that we think are necessary for good health. Instead, watching our thoughts and letting go of the ego thought system. Of course in the ego's system are lots of external things the Course call magic. But the Course is not anti magic. It's not like pills are bad, and surgery is bad and all these things, but basically if you're too frightened to open up the Holy Spirit and have a mind shift or a miracle, perhaps you need a mix of magic and miracles. In other words, Jesus isn't saying you should just stay there as your head is throbbing or something is happening and you have a towel on or whatever you feel could do the job, but you’re just going to stay there and work this through, because the mind can be in such a fearful state that it is too closed down to the Holy Spirit. And so Jesus, once again, is not anti magic he just says that you can have a little mix of magic and miracle. You'll go along, you'll keep getting better. Your mind will get more highly trained, and there will come a time when you will be open to the mind shift and the symptoms or pain or whatever will disappear, but that's where the mind training comes in.
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