How to rise above the problems of the illusory world through the lessons of A Course in Miracles.
By Raveena Nash
|Chapter 1||Annoyance related to the past|
|Chapter 2||Seeing conflict on the TV news|
|Chapter 3||Feeling anger towards someone or something|
|Chapter 4||Feeling agitated, troubled and anxious|
|Chapter 5||Feeling weak and vulnerable|
|Chapter 6||Feeling resentful or unforgiving|
|Chapter 7||Feeling lost and wanting to discover your divine purpose|
|Chapter 8||Worrying about ill health and experiencing pain|
|Chapter 9||Being afraid of death|
|Chapter 10||Feeling mistrustful about someone|
|Chapter 11||Unable to meditate and calm the mind|
|Chapter 12||Worrying about the future|
|Chapter 13||Feeling trapped in the world of the ego|
|Chapter 14||Feeling unhappy, anxious or afraid due to difficult circumstances|
|Chapter 15||When things no longer appeal to you|
|Chapter 16||Having low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence|
|Chapter 17||Feeling frightened about what lies ahead|
|Chapter 18||Being too distracted by daily activities to think of God|
|Chapter 19||Judging someone who has done something wrong|
|Chapter 20||Feeling different from others|
|Chapter 21||When responding to a difficult person or situation|
|Chapter 22||Feeling guilty|
|Chapter 23||Feeling sad and upset because of all the cruelty in the world|
|Chapter 24||Feeling unfairly treated by someone or by circumstances|
|Chapter 25||Feeling dissatisfied and wanting more out of life|
|Chapter 26||Feeling the need to defend oneself|
|Chapter 27||Uplifting Lessons to light the Way|
Chapter 3: Feeling anger towards someone or something (Excerpt)
Anger is one of the most common sentiments on the planet. Every living person has, at one time or another, experienced this emotion, which stems from fear. Fear, in turn, stems from guilt due to the belief in the separation from Heaven.
A Course in Miracles does not tell us never to get angry but it does say that anger is never justified. This is because it makes the illusion real. We are simply reacting to figures in our collective dream which doesn’t make sense. In Chapter 30 of the Text it also says that forgiveness or pardon is always justified. “…You do not forgive the unforgivable, nor overlook a real attack that calls for punishment…Instead, it (salvation) merely asks that you respond appropriately to what is not real by not perceiving what has not occurred.” ACIM, T638 We are asked to ignore what has not occurred. This is not easy for the simple reason that when we get angry, we do seem, within the illusion, to have every right to respond with anger. The key is to remember that it is only an illusion and our goal is to rise above all the illusions of the world.
Lesson 22: “What I see is a form of vengeance”, may serve as a reminder to wake up and learn the lesson involved in the situation. It may remind us that we feel the need to be angry or to defend ourselves because we have projected our anger onto the world. Jesus tells us that this becomes a vicious circle until we change our perception of whatever the situation is.
Lesson 23 follows on nicely from Lesson 22. “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” Feeling angry does not make one feel good about oneself. So it must come as a relief to realise that one doesn’t have to be angry. “…There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.” ACIM, W34.
This passage tells us clearly that the key to overcoming anger is in our own hands; if we change our minds about the world and realise that everything in it is a mental projection, then we will see that there is no point in getting worked up about the things people say or do. The obvious thing to do is to respond in a calm manner and shrug off upsetting incidents. The more we do so, the less likely we are to encounter circumstances or people who make us angry. In fact, the more one practises the Course, the less angry one becomes…
Chapter 5: Feeling weak and vulnerable (Excerpt)
We are at the mercy of the whims of fate, and we have no option but to deal bravely with whatever is dished out to us. We experience happy times and then, inevitably, things go wrong in one way or another or, at least, they change quite dramatically. A lovely child grows up to be an awkward teenager; a healthy bank balance can disappear overnight if we are suddenly made redundant; a sudden and debilitating disease can bring our active lifestyle to an abrupt halt; a fulfilling relationship can be destroyed in an instant by infidelity; an earthquake or tsunami can wreak havoc in a few minutes and destroy complete towns and everyone and everything in them—and for those who survive such a catastrophe, their whole way of life can change in an instant. Those are just a few examples of how life in the world of the ego can make us feel weak and vulnerable. One of the reasons for this is the unpredictability of most, if not all, things. The reason for this unpredictability is that change is at the essence of all the “miscreations” of the ego. When the mind had a “tiny, mad idea” to become autonomous it created the ego which, in turn, created our physical bodies, the world, time and space. All of them are illusory since the tiny, mad idea was just that—an idea, with no tangible effects, as mentioned before. We are reminded frequently in the Course that ideas cannot leave their source (the mind); so they remain only ideas or thoughts and nothing else. Nonetheless, the ego actually believed that it succeeded in its quest for autonomy, and the result is this world where everything is impermanent.
The only way to overcome feelings of weakness and vulnerability is to rise above the ego’s world altogether. Fortunately, ACIM has given us a number of useful lessons to help us with this. We could start with Lesson 47: “God is the strength in which I trust.” It is made clear in this lesson that if we rely on the ego we cannot help but feel powerless. “If you are trusting in your own strength, you have every reason to be apprehensive, anxious and fearful. What can you predict or control? What is there in you that can be counted on?” There is nothing in our lives that is predictable or within our control, although we spend most of the time trying to make sure we can control events both in the present and in the future…
…Many people suffer from loneliness especially when they grow older and find themselves living alone. This could be why so many people turn to pets for companionship. Cats and dogs give their human companions great love, loyalty and devotion. If we want to learn the true meaning of unconditional love, then our best teachers are our pets. However, if we remember God, then we shouldn’t really feel lonely. As Lesson 41 reminds us, “God goes with me wherever I go.” Jesus starts off this lesson with the following: “Today’s idea will eventually overcome completely the sense of loneliness and abandonment all the separated ones experience. Depression is an inevitable consequence of separation. So are anxiety, worry, a deep sense of helplessness, misery, suffering and intense fear of loss.” It is not surprising, then, that depression is a major health problem causing people to turn to tranquilizers for solace. Perhaps they should turn to God instead and remember, “You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go. Nothing can destroy your peace of mind because God goes with you wherever you go.” ACIM, W63. It is sometimes difficult to remember this when we are suffering or going through challenging times, but we need to because it will give us inner strength.
So, whenever you feel unhappy, lonely, weak or vulnerable it would help greatly if you stopped, took a few deep breaths and recalled that God has not abandoned you and that Christ is by your side all the time. Turn within for a few moments and say: “God goes with me wherever I go”…
Chapter 9: Being afraid of death (Excerpt)
Death is a particularly difficult topic to write about. It is our ultimate destiny and the unavoidable fate of all living creatures. We notice that everything in our world is destined to be born, grow, wither and die, and there’s nothing we can do about it. It is generally a subject most people feel uncomfortable discussing, and yet there is something vitally important about death that we need to know and we need to tell ourselves every day: despite appearances to the contrary, death is an impossibility.
Jesus tells us in A Course in Miracles that, “Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end? ….It is the one fixed, unchangeable belief of the world that all things in it are born only to die. This is regarded as ‘the way of nature,’ not to be raised to question, but to be accepted as the ‘natural’ law of life….all this is taken as the Will of God. And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this.” ACIM, M66.
If we sit down and ponder on this we will come to the inevitable conclusion that a loving God would not create mortal human beings simply to have them end their lives in weakness and sickness before dying. All the religions that teach this must believe that God is cruel and vindictive and definitely not a “benign Creator.” A God of love would give us eternal life, and for those who believe in non-duality this is exactly what they are certain He has done. He has created us as immortal spirit, one with Him and with all of creation, and it is not His will for us to be born as mortals and then die. This is repeated numerous times in A Course in Miracles…
… Another reason why death is not possible is that we are all holy Sons of God; this is a key theme in A Course in Miracles. The term Son of God is not reserved solely for Jesus but is something we all share with him. If we are holy Sons of God then we, like Jesus, must have been given the gift of eternal life. In Lesson 198 we are told that it is insanity to think that God condemns us (for the separation) and also to believe that we can die: “…How mad to think that you could be condemned, and that the holy Son of God can die!” ACIM, W380.
Despite being aware of the above, it is probably true to say that the thought of the death of the body is frightening because, in the world of form, we have identified with it for so long. To help us overcome this fear, faith in the teachings of Jesus (and other enlightened spiritual teachers) is essential. One could talk for hours about the unreality of death but one has no actual proof of this. So faith is needed, but there are a few lessons in the Workbook that can also help.
One such lesson is Lesson 163: “There is no death. The Son of God is free”…
Chapter 11: Unable to meditate and calm the mind (Excerpt)
Although A Course in Miracles does not focus specifically on the need to meditate, there are several sections in the Text and Workbook which deal with the need to turn away from the outer world and concentrate on the world within. And, whilst daily meditation sessions are not strictly required, it is evident that Jesus does ask us to have regular moments of calm to help us rise above the unending stream of ego-based thoughts that flow through the mind.
Meditation is not an easy thing to do however long one practises; the cares and concerns of our busy lifestyle frequently intrude upon our minds when we sit down in search of calm, inner peace and guidance. The more we rush around during the day trying to get numerous things done, the more active we may find our minds are when we actually stop to meditate.
Fortunately, there are a number of lessons in the Workbook which can be used to help calm the mind and control the thoughts that seem to whirl through the mind in a frenzy. “Let me be still and listen to the Truth,” we read in Lesson 106. This lesson warns us that ego will try to distract us, but if we can turn away from it we will hear the Voice for God, i.e., the Holy Spirit. “If you will lay aside the ego’s voice, however loudly it may seem to call; if you will not accept its petty gifts that give you nothing that you really want; if you will listen with an open mind, that has not told you what salvation is; then you will hear the mighty Voice of truth, quiet in power, strong in stillness, and completely certain in Its messages.” ACIM, W190.
If one meditates after a busy day at work one may find that all the issues that cropped up during the day return to occupy the mind. Then, after going beyond these thoughts, it may be possible to turn within and experience some moments of tranquillity. However, if a meal has to be cooked in the evening, one may find that one’s mind wanders off to the kitchen and starts to plan the meal. This, of course, is just another ego tactic, but it is quite difficult to conquer if one is hungry. Yet, Lesson 106 urges us to continue with our meditation: “Be not afraid to circumvent the voices of the world. Walk lightly past their meaningless persuasion. Hear them not. Be still today and listen to the truth…”
Lesson 221 is another very suitable lesson to use when one tries to turn within and shut out the raucous ego. “Peace to my mind. Let all my thoughts be still.” This lesson emphasises the need to calm the mind so that we can receive guidance from the Voice for God…
Chapter 19: Judging someone who has done something wrong (Excerpt)
Whether we realise it or not, we make judgments about people and events all the time; it seems to be human nature to judge others. We judge when someone says something upsetting; we judge when we watch the television news; we judge when we side with a political party—believing that the party we support is superior to others; we judge people who have different religious beliefs from ourselves. We also judge a person as soon as he walks into the room; he could be too tall, too short, too old, too ugly, badly-dressed, etc. It has been said that the first few minutes of a job interview are the most important. This is probably because the interviewer is sizing up the interviewee based on his appearance, his demeanour and his body language. Physical appearances are of importance to the ego but we have to learn to look beyond them in our endeavour to rise above the world of form.
In judging people and events, in taking sides, we build barriers between us and “them”, and these barriers will: “…bind my eyes and make me blind.” ACIM, W480. If we pick up any newspaper and read the headlines we will realise that nothing could be more judgmental. In fact, journalists would have very little to write about if they were told to eliminate all judgment and finger-pointing from their writing…
…There are a number of lessons that serve as useful reminders when we notice we are just about to judge a person, a group of people or an event. Lesson 259 reminds us, “Let me remember that there is no sin” and Lesson 335 asserts, “I choose to see my brother’s sinlessness.” This lesson points out that we are projecting our thoughts onto others, “…What I see in him is merely what I wish to see, because it stands for what I want to be the truth.” It is explained in this lesson that if we choose to forgive another this will restore the memory of God to us—amazing!
Projection is a typical characteristic of the ego. It projects its own thoughts and feelings onto others to make it feel better about itself. If one comes across, for example, an angry driver, it could be that one has “created” this driver because one still has one’s own anger issues to deal with. The angry driver is just reflecting back the contents of one’s mind…
Chapter 23: Feeling sad and upset because of all the cruelty in the world (Excerpt)
There is no doubt that there are a lot of horrible things going on in the world. Some of us seem capable of unspeakable cruelty to others. We are also capable of inflicting great suffering upon the animal kingdom, and we aren’t always too careful about the plant kingdom either. Without going into the dreadful detail of it all, suffice it to say that certain events and deeds can be really shocking and disturbing. Some people no longer watch the news on television or read the newspapers at all because of all the suffering they will be confronted with.
What does A Course in Miracles, tell us about the world? A great deal!
Our world, we are told, is not our natural environment; we are like a fish out of water. It is, therefore, not surprising that things in our world get us down. “…The world goes against your nature, being out of accord with God’s laws…A Son of God is happy only when he knows he is with God. That is the only environment in which he will not experience strain, because that is where he belongs…” ACIM, T136.
Several lessons in the Workbook deal with the fact that our world is meaningless. As we saw earlier on in this book, Lesson 14 states: “God did not create a meaningless world.” That is a good thing to remind oneself, when one perceives the horrors of the world…
…The problem is that all the disasters, crimes and tragedies that unfold here seem very real. When this is the case, we can turn to Lesson 12: “I am upset because I see a meaningless world,” and, as we look around the world and notice what is going on, we are advised to say to ourselves: “I think I see a fearful world, a dangerous world, a hostile world, a sad world, a wicked world, a crazy world…But I am upset because I see a meaningless world.” ACIM, W19. It really doesn’t make much sense to let a meaningless, non-existent world disturb our peace of mind. But what do we do when we are bombarded by the news of tragic events every single day of the year? Switch channels. Turn the news off and turn on a music channel instead, preferably the sort of music that brings you peace and puts a smile on your face. The only way to remain immune to the messages of the media is to become a bit like an ostrich…
…A good lesson to use when our world makes us feel sad, angry or depressed is Lesson 23: “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” It was the attack thoughts of the ego which made this world in the first place. By accepting the Atonement (which is how we abandon our attack thoughts) we can reach the state in which we will be ready to live in the real world, which is a stone’s throw away from Heaven, we are told…