sunrise Village Bulletin Board, 16th November, 2010:
Back on the MOJ Bandwagon
Anyone up for a Skype Village Get-Together this Sunday? Let's do it! I'm ready for another round of group wisdom, giggles, static, forgiveness, and wonder. It's time for us to re-read those notes from section 2 and see Ken's ideas at work in our lives. We'll lick this Judgment thing once and for all! Judgment, humph, what's that? Ancient history... been there, done that. No? Okay, so maybe it'll take us a meeting or two more.





sunrise Village Bulletin Board, 14th November, 2010:
A Surprise Call from Hell

Lisi had a pretty amazing experience on the phone with her sister the other day which she shared with us in the Village Square. So you don't miss it, I posted it here.

I had a “surprising?” event yesterday. An unexpected phone call. When my cell rang, no name but a number, but the area code was the one in which my best friend (since school days) live, so I happily answered: “Hi dear”. The answering voice was not hers but a voice I did not identified at the first moment. And she said: “Lisi, is me Ingrid.” In that moment all hell was unleashed. Well, Ingrid is my “sister”, in Spanish we say “media hermana” I don´t know if in English you say “half sister?”, because she is my father´s daughter but she is not my mother´s. She is the daughter of the BITCH. I already told you that my parents divorced when I was a 7 year old child. After the divorce he married the bitch and had a daughter with her, my half sister, Ingrid. We never met each other until adulthood because her mother never wanted that she met us, (I have two more sisters). At the end of his life, my father with a bad emphysema decease came to live with me for his four last years, because I live near the sea and that what good for his health. So finally, we met. Ingrid came down here to visit our father.

We had a superficial relationship on those occasions. For four years we talked “nice” to each other but for sure hating each other. After my father died, ten years ago, I never met her again. We only had a few phone calls that as time passed by completely stopped. Every time she came to mind I just tried to block her out.

So, the moment she said: “Lisi,I am Ingrid,” literally all hell was unleashed. I began to feel and acute pain in my chest and stomach and the figure that came immediately to mind was the BITCH, namely, her mother. In that moment, as if I was watching a film, all my childhood passed in front of my eyes and all the “terrible things” she has “done” to us as well. A huge pile of resentments began to grow and I began to judge her thinking all sort of terrible things about her, and the last thought before I began to look was “I hope she is dead by now.” In that moment the real looking began. It was really weird because the internal agitation ceased, the pain in the chest and stomach disappeared, and I just began to watch all the judgements and horrible thoughts and wishes I had toward her. I just was watching without any additional feeling, and in a moment I even feel amused because at the same time I was watching the movie in my mind I was talking to Ingrid “normally.” The best was the last thought: “undoubtedly we both are the same BITCH, and it is okay.”

I don´t know what is going to happen in the future but at least in this moment the experience that we are not different but the same, it is a very peaceful one. The course works. We are not many, we are just one.

sunrise The MOJ is making its labour. When I hung up, I remembered what I just read two or three days ago: “There is a part of us, no matter how much we have studied this Course and claim we believe it, that does not believe this world is a dream. And we can recognize this to the extent that we watch our minds fill with judgments; all the little things of the world that we are attracted to; all the petty hates and grievances that we hold on to; all the petty things we hold up as symbols of injustice…All of these thoughts make it very clear how much we do identify with this dream and make it reality.”

Well now, serving a cup of coffee Annie left here for me and beginning to read all your, I am sure, wonderful posts.

Lots of hugs to all,

Lisi

From Bernard: I'd just like to add something I found from a previous post of Lisi's. It just seems to fit in nicely here:
You are something greater and
More precious than
The best person in the world.
You are not a person.
You are the Christ.
And in that recognition
All your struggling ceases,
You cease to speak.

(Comments here)



sunrise Village Bulletin Board, 12th November, 2010:
Return to the Dream with Jesus

Winnie shared this dream with us a few days ago, and if you missed it, it's really worth looking at.

"I had this dream a few months ago and I have been wanting to share it with you.

It is night. I am on the side of the road with my dream lover. I think his name is Richard. We are on the edge of the mountain where I live. One car that goes past calls out something that freaks me out a bit. We walk away from the road and sit down in a little hollowed out area on the mountainside. Richard takes off his shirt and we start cuddling and kissing in an innocent way.

The very next thing that I remember is our “coming to” in a dark house way further down the mountain side. We are both naked and covered in bruises, wounds, cuts, gashes and scratches all over our bodies. I try to leave but the house is locked and then I become aware of the baddy whose house it is. He is in the dark just behind a glass wall and speaks menacingly. I am filled with fear and look back at Richard and then to the baddy behind the glass partition and to the door. I am so deeply shocked. My fear rises as the scene instantly replays. It is like I am watching an instant replay of about ten seconds duration that keeps replaying. My fear escalates into total terror, especially at the realization that I have not the slightest memory of how we got here. but still the scene keeps revolving as a I desperately look for a way out. Round and round my eyes scan from our broken bodies to the baddy and then round the walls in search of escape, only to come back to the view of our broken bodies. Every time I see them I am terrified and confused and still the scene keeps going around and replaying as if the room is entirely round and the scene and my eyes which seems to be located across the room from my body are frozen in a time warp.

Then I hear myself say, “I don't want to watch this movie any more.” Immediately I wake up. The same shock is still with me and now I am shocked further with the realization that the minute I uttered those words, I was out of the situation.

It is such a sudden transition and I am still fear-filled. I turn on the light and get out of bed and instantly think of my youngest, frightened that he may have experienced this kind of terror some times in his life. I am utterly astonished that I heard myself say the above words and upon uttering them, to instantly wake up. I think I am terrified to realize that i have the power to do that.

Still reeling with fear, I wonder what to do. It is the middle of the night and I definitely don't want to go back to sleep in case I might go back to the dream. I ask Jesus to help me. Straight away I decide I will face up to my fears by Jove, and go back to the dream because I don't want to lose this opportunity and with Jesus with me, I can not go wrong.

I go back to sleep and back to the dream. This time I am not afraid … at all… Now I notice there are other people who are also enslaved and more and more coming all the time. All of us are under the control of the madman. We spend all our time manipulating others and partaking in useless activities. Normal behaviour consists of constant acts of mild mutual torture. It is so mild we don't realize it is painful. When new people come under the madman`s spell, I do what I have to do with them, but it no longer bothers me inwardly and believe that my thinking that helps them somehow. Sometimes I forget, and find myself getting drawn in to the drama until I remember again.

The dream seems to last for the remainder of the night.

[When I decided that I would go back to the dream, it never even entered my head that I may not be able to do that. I had no doubt at all that I would, yet I was fully awake when I made that decision. Also at no time did this dream feel like a "movie".]

big hugs to all….."

(Comments here)



sunrise Village Bulletin Board, 11th November, 2010:
The ACIM Rollercoaster

I owe the Village a little more honesty. It’s nice to pretend to be the big boss Mayor who has it all down, shares a benevolent word with his citizens and receives their blessings in recompense. But it’s going to feel a lot better if I come clean and talk about the mucky mayoral murkiness that has invaded your fearless fearfilled leader these past few weeks.

I said a couple of days ago that I've been feeling uninspired recently, which you can take literally as meaning not 'in spirit'. I think the Meaning of Judgment work has been getting to me! About a month ago I decided I wanted to get more dedicated to this path, to make a sort of 'definitive commitment' to the purpose of this work. There is a line somewhere in the text (if anyone can locate it for me) to this effect: At some point we must recognize that we run to the Course only when our guilt gets too much for us, but not because we want to attain its goal. I have been aware of that for a while, and realized that, it's true, I just wanted to feel better here, certainly not to undo my sense of personal self.

Okay, that sounds spooky when said like that. What I guess I mean is that there is a call toward something that is beyond simply feeling better here, and it is the Call to reunite with our real Self, the One we share with Jesus. And that’s a nice thought. It’s also, I figure, the only way I’m ever really going to be able to resolve the deep-seated fears of my mortality (yes, I’m scared of dying). If there’s something that really attracts us about this Course, it’s because it speaks to us of something way beyond this world. But fiddling around with a thought here and a feeling there isn’t going to get me back there. It’s taking Jesus at his word, that we’re something more than these bodies here, that’s going to get things moving again in the right direction. I figured the best way to do this was by starting with our work here together at the Village. You said ‘Judgments’?

Working seriously through the Judgments workshop, it became clear that pretty much any moment of the day, what was going through my mind was some sort of judgment, and not just a factual observation type of judgment. It was a series of good ol’ separating quality judgments, of good and bad, right and wrong, something to move toward or away from, something to include more in my life, or exclude. Guess that would be special love and special hate relationships, which means something to cannibalize, or something to kill (thanks, Ken!). It didn’t seem like there was much else in my mind other than this! And so in good Villager fashion, I asked my Brother for help to look at this kindly. Well, I guess he agreed, and then all hell broke loose. He must’ve said, okay, if we’re in this together and you really want to look, then so be it. And then the cinema began…

For about two weeks I couldn’t see or feel anything except this series of condemnations and seething, hateful judgments. I clung to the corner of Jesus’ robe as he took me on a whirlwind tour of my ego mind, all the ins and outs I had never seen (and certainly never wanted to!). I wish I could say that I stood with him the whole time looking at this mess, but obviously I didn’t. If I had, I would have felt peaceful and light the whole time. I could even have chuckled and grinned at the panoramic show. But instead I opened my eyes in fear and felt nausea rise in my throat in disgust and felt severe pain in my lower back and saw myself in an impossible prison of financial constraint and professional dead-ends. Everywhere – condemnation… There was pretty much no respite. That’s I guess what you call the downhill plunge on the ACIM rollercoaster. All I could hear inside was, ‘You asked for it!’ And it’s true. I did want to know, and I did want to use it to turn closer and closer toward that smiling, chuckling presence next to me. But I didn’t.

Why?

I’m insane. I’m totally, utterly insane. Why else would someone want to choose the pain of his hateful self-perceptions, beating himself up (okay, other people, too) literally for no good reason, unless he were insane?

Why would I choose to be so insane, especially when there is a way out?

There is a reason; that’s at least something positive I’ve come to learn.

I like my insanity.

I truly do.

I don’t think I could live without it at the moment.

In my insanity, I get to still think that I’m me. Okay, a terribly hateful, outrageously insane and malicious bastard/bitch. But still, me. At least, that’s the impression.

I know in reality that’s not really the case. And that’s what I learned with Jesus over the past two weeks. During those moments we looked together at this frightful, and frightfully funny, mess, there was no real ‘me’, as such. When we looked together, there was just an ‘us’. And the ‘us’ didn’t really have any specific characteristics or personality, no wonderful individual life of any importance. It was just a quiet and peaceful, pleasantly observing ‘us’. One minute I was tormented by a hurricane wind of doubt that reduced me to a quivering mess (“What on earth am I going to do with my life? Look how I’ve screwed everything up.”) And literally the next instant there was light laughter, smiling at the idea that any of these questions could matter at all.

There was just a type of smile, of light laughter, in ‘us’. There was no raging, tearing, weeping pain. It was horrible! I couldn’t stand it. And so I preferred to return to my friends of anguish and self-condemnation, feeling much safer when surrounded by familiar partners. I was at home! Okay, it was a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea filled with the corpses of all those I had dragged down to die with me; it was the rotting carcass of some dinosaur poisoned by hate and a million years of wanting the impossible to be true.

sunrise That’s where I stood, and still stand. Wanting the impossible to be true. Wanting the painful and unbearable truth of my world to be that I am lost and abandoned and have no recourse but to fight for my survival in a universe that cares not at all for me. (I said I was insane!)

But at least I get to see that’s my choice. And Jesus is still there.

Damn that smile! Why does he keep smiling like that? You’d almost imagine he was thinking at some point I’m going to say, ‘Enough of this craziness’.

“Well, aren’t you?”

Gimme a moment more. I’m getting there.

That smile – how irritating!

(Comments in the Village Square, please)



sunrise Village Bulletin Board:
Halloween-style Forgiveness by Winnie

Winnie wrote up this pretty exceptional post a few days ago, and I'm just now getting around to putting it up here. It's worth a re-read if you've already seen it, and worth a re-think if you've already thunked it.

"On Saturday night I went to a neighbour`s Halloween party, the first time ever, not just for me but for most of the guests. I guess Halloween has come to Australia. It`s the first time I've seen certain pumpkins in the shops specially for the occasion. A group of us ghouls and witches stood around debating as to whether the “trick” was something the children did to you if you didn't give them lollies or whether it was something you could do to the kids if you didn't want to give them anything. We decided it would be deliciously horrible if it was the latter and had lots of laughs thinking up simple tricks which was quite appropriate since we were all dressed up so wickedly. It all seemed so harmless.

From the moment I arrived, I found myself suddenly and shockingly soooo jealous of my neighbour`s little fairy-like cottage. It is everything I could want in a residence – tiny/ tucked away in the bush with no neighbours in sight/ very low rent/ and best of all the twinkling lights of the city away in the distance down below {my favourite kind of view}. I don't know that I have ever felt so jealous and I just hated her guts that she had what i would love…. My sick thoughts even ranged to thinking she would probably inherit it when the elderly landlord died, since the landlord had no family. This thought made me seethe with deeper resentment. I noticed this insanity on the inside. On the outside I behaved normally and had a really good time. It was like watching my inner evil stepmother shrieking and stomping helplessly with rage. I guess it helped that I was dressed for the part !

I stepped out in the night away from the party to take a closer look at the twinkling lights on the coastal plain below, and while the inner witch coveted viciously, I recognized the lights as a symbol of the Sonship welcoming me to my real home, but I understood that this night I wanted to be stubborn and frightened of the Lights of Home. The truth did not silence the witch but I knew it wasn't my job to bring me peace. I know my business is the second step of judgement – looking at my ego without guilt which automatically means i am looking with Jesus.

I went back to the party giving my inner bitch, permission to rant and rave to its heart`s content, and shortly after I noticed I felt resentful of the children happily playing all around the back yard, especially the little daughter of the neighbour. The resentment grew quickly into stark deep hatred so close to the surface I almost wondered if it was visible. It was about then we had the trick or treat discussion, which I was very aware was a thinly disguised attack on children, the symbol of Innocence.

While this inner looking wasn't pleasant, it didn't bother me unduly because I kept remembering that this was my own-self hatred I was seeing. How could I not be grateful to have this unconscious guilt brought to the surface.

Big loving hugs to all xoxoxooxo" (Any comments here)



sunrise 31st October, Sunday Fireside Get-Together

This Sunday we are holding the third Village group meeting via Skype.

This is a time of relaxation with Village friends to chat and slowly work through the Meaning of Judgment FACIM workshop. Come prepared to laugh and learn, to banter and discuss, and above all to discover that we are all the same on this perplexing path Homeward.

In preparation, please try to have a look through the second part of section 1 (paragraphs 17-26) of the excerpt reprinted at the Village Square (top of page).

Outline for this meeting:
General ‘hellos’. Each of us will have a moment of ‘air-time’ to say hello to everyone else and bring up any issues or challenges in his/current 'classroom'.
Reading of a workbook lesson to ‘set the mood’.
Review of highlighted sections from The Meaning of Judgment workshop, say we each read a little bit.
Participant air-time: each person has a chance to make any comments about working with this section of MOJ, difficulties (ease??) etc.
Review some recent Villager posts
Issue of “waiting”: “Forgiveness looks, waits and judges not.” What are we waiting for? Question of resistance, why don’t we practice what Jesus asks us to do? What’s the payback to judging, what do I get out of it?
Conclusion (workbook lesson) and goodbyes till next time

Guidelines:
I’d like us to just keep in mind these two points, please:
If each person who takes the mike could say who they are and to whom they are addressing their words, that would help a lot.
I aim to keep the session in the hour and a half - two hour range. At different moments I might remind folks of the time, just so that we can fit everything in and keep things moving at a comfortable pace for everyone. Please don't take it personally if it seems like I'm cutting you short or changing direction a little abruptly.

When?
Pacific time 7am, Mountain time 8 am, Central time 9 am, East Coast time 10am, European continental 4 pm, Singapore 10 pm.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Oh, and choice of jasmine tea, spicy chai, ceylon or double Italian espresso (for those getting up at 7am).

Want to participate?
If you would like to participate, please don’t forget to get a Skype address and send it to me. Instructions: Just go to Skype.com and click on the download button to install the software (it’s the second button from the left in the main navigation bar under the Skype logo). Then get a Skype name for yourself by clicking on the ‘sign-up’ button that is second from the left in the mini navigation bar at the very top of the home page. N.B. You do not want to be signing up for any of Skype’s paying services for these group sessions. The Skype service we are talking about is entirely free. Once you have a Skype account name, just send it to me in an email at: bernard@pauloandthemagician.com.



Village Bulletin Board: "Cleaning the Mirror of our Minds" - post by Anil
October 18th, 2010

Dear Bernard -
It’s been a slow morning. The heady after-effects of Sunday’s Skype call persist, and i am more addicted than before to the Village. I cannot tear myself away from its magnetic pull, and as I move through this state of being, revisit the Journal for the June week, specifically the article on physics and the hologram shift.

sunrise How odd our bodies are ? With billions of cells, each made of billions of atoms, each atom with billions of particles, each particle billions of “miles” away from the next nearest particle.

Quantum physics, as you lay it out above, was one of the ways I came to where I am. The idea of an atom with so much space within, and yet here I am, feeling “solid” in this large body, unable to see “reality”, the way the physicists say it actually is.

The idea of the entire Universe being just one thought, fragmented into billions of little pieces, each its own seeming entity, relating to all other entities.

Something just didn’t compute. What was really happening ? Why did it not make sense ? Into that void/space of confusion came the Course, and into my Life. It was 2001. So long ago. It was another life-time.

I tried to read it, but never went past the first page. That quirky little pre-first page. Was it called the Introduction ? I can’t remember right now the heading, but I can remember the three lines that stood out.

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the Peace of God.

I quoted that to a couple of friends, it seemed sometimes at the oddest and most irrelevant times. I wonder what they thought of it – whether they even remember it. In all, I quoted it to three people, including my mother and my sister. I remember at least two “snap-shots” of it – even through the fog that seems to lie between my “now” in 2010, and my “then” in 2001.

Life moved on. There was no perceptible shift in my sense of well-being, although there was no movement in the other direction either. Status quo, pretty much. The Course lay to a side on the bookshelf. Until 2004.

Late December 2004. And an interestingly titled book – “The Disappearance of the Universe” looked out at me from the Barnes and Noble store I used to frequent in Jacksonville, Florida.

It was unputdownable. Read all night. And somewhere in that first chapter – that golden nugget. “God did not create the world”. Lightning flash. Sit-up bolt upright on my mattress on the floor. The missing piece fell into place.

My father had been asking for some months during this period – Why is there “evil” in the world, if God is good ? Variations of the “Why do bad things happen to Good people ?” He asked me, he asked his only sister – two of his most trusted sources for information of this sort. None of our answers made sense to him. He would listen, shake his head ever-so-slightly. Nope. Doesn’t compute. Not the right answer.

That night in Jacksonville, I got an answer to the question I never knew I had. God never made this world. How simple. How elegant an answer. The world dreamed instead by a mis-thought, an idle thought, a moment in time when i fell asleep, from which i never awoke.

As I sit here, at my wife’s laptop, looking through the large floor-to-ceiling windows onto the Ocean from our apartment high in the sky, all this seems indulgent.

sunrise To write down such a detailed account, to review mentally, yet again, some of the experiences of the last nine years. And to post it on-line to a forum, where i am prompted to wonder whether it has any value to those reading it.

But that is the ego speaking. If I can’t share my story with my friends, then where else could I ? The voice that suggests this false humility is the voice that tries to hide its grandiose ambitions in timidity. Inferior-superior, the same game it plays at different times, taking different positions and stances. It seeks to prove its existence, and can seem to win, no matter what. It creates several different story-lines, and opposing thoughts, no matter what position or thought I adopt in this moment.

But it’s OK. Whatever I choose to do now, whether to press the Submit button, or to delete and close the browser, neither will have any effect on Who I really Am.

My mind is, in part, this vast mirror, and in it is reflected the whole world, the sky, the clouds. Floating onto it, from time-to-time, sometimes all the time, are various pieces of debris and dust.

sunrise It is a labor of love to keep the mirror clean. To remove the dust and the debris as best I can, with no hint of upset. The dust and debris keep falling, but i will keep cleaning the mirror.

Gradually, the mirror will be able to reflect better the sky above, the light of heaven. The dust and debris that kept falling onto my mirror are my own thoughts, falling away, and having fallen away, leaving my mind lighter. The process of cleaning continues, and will continue. How long it does, seems to matter not – much more important seems to be to make the mirror clean and sparkling. And for that i seem to have a ways to go.

I have reached the end of this long and winding post (: And i trust all is well in your world.

love,
a



sunrise Sunday October 17th Fireside Get-Together

This Sunday we are holding the second Village group meeting via Skype, and the first in the Meaning of Judgment (MOJ) transcription series. It will also be the occasion for celebrating a few birthdays – so bring your party hats! I’m expecting everyone to come with streamers and whistles, and of course we’ll have to have a group sing-along, won’t we?

But enough joviality for the moment – we’re gettin’ to work and we mean business here! I would like everyone to come just a teensy bit prepared, if they can find the time. But it won’t be difficult. If you could, just take a look down the crib notes I provided at the Village Square at post #453, then at the list of questions (post #457) relative to Section 1 of MOJ (paragraphs 1-16).

Outline for this meeting:
General ‘hellos’ and birthday wishes. Each of us will have a moment of ‘air-time’ to say hello to everyone else.
Reading of a workbook lesson to ‘set the mood’.
Brief review of the section from Meaning of Judgment, say we each read a little bit.
Participant air-time: each person has a chance to make any brief comments about working with this section of MOJ, difficulties (ease??) etc.
Review recent Villager posts: Bev 485, Laura 499, Michele 500 and any comments
Issue of “waiting”: “Forgiveness looks, waits and judges not.” What are we waiting for? Question of resistance, why don’t we practice what Jesus asks us to do? What’s the payback to judging, what do I get out of it?
Conclusion (workbook lesson) and goodbyes till next time

Guidelines:
I learned a little from this last session and I’d like us to just keep in mind these two points:
If each person who takes the mike could say who they are and to whom they are addressing their words, that would help a lot.
At times I’ll remind folks of the time, just so that we can fit everything in and keep things moving at a comfortable pace for everyone.

When?
Pacific time 7am, Mountain time 8 am, Central time 9 am, East Coast time 10am, European continental 4 pm, Singapore 10 pm.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Oh, and choice of jasmine tea, spicy chai, ceylon or double Italian espresso (for those getting up at 7am).

Want to participate?
If you were not present for the last meeting and would like to participate, please don’t forget to get a Skype address and send it to me. Instructions: Just go to Skype.com and click on the download button to install the software (it’s the second button from the left in the main navigation bar under the Skype logo). Then get a Skype name for yourself by clicking on the ‘sign-up’ button that is second from the left in the mini navigation bar at the very top of the home page. N.B. You do not want to be signing up for any of Skype’s paying services for these group sessions. The Skype service we are talking about is entirely free. Once you have a Skype account name, just send it to me in an email at: bernard@pauloandthemagician.com.



Village Bulletin Board: "Grace is the acceptance of the Love of God..."
October 12th, 2010

sunrise I'm realizing these past few days just how much this Village is truly a community, and a splendid one at that. What I'm most grateful for is how we are building it together by each little step each one of us is making. It seems to me that I laid a foundation, and you all have decided to come build on that, one stone and brick at a time. Each comment, each thoughtful, dedicated and sincere sharing of our path, each time we search within ourselves and find something in our hearts that is meaningful to us and we bring it here to share with everyone in confidence, these are the stones and bricks that are raising our tower heavenwards. We do this together. It is clear to me that this is really not my doing, but our mutual collaboration. We rise up together, cajoling, provoking and prodding each other, laughing together, and then carrying each other at times when things are dark. You bless me all with your deep sincerity and your willingness to walk this confusing, and at times frightening, path together with me.

Another stone has been added to our tower recently, rising all of us up just above the mist from where we could feel a warm ray of healing sunshine break through the clouds. I would like to share this part of a participant's post since it seems to so beautifully capture the essence of our work together:

Lesson 169 says that “Grace is acceptance of the Love of God within a world of seeming hate and fear.
By grace alone the hate and fear are gone, for grace presents a state so opposite to everything the world
contains, that those whose minds are lighted by the gift of grace can not believe the world of fear is real.”(W-169).


As we look at the world with total acceptance, we come to see that every situation is perfect because
it’s for us. The right minded way of looking at the world is that it’s for our use. Its only purpose is to help
us become aware of our true nature. We can use every situation to lead ourselves out of suffering or root
us further into it. So divorce, disease, war, loss, death, don’t happen to us; but for us. We also understand
that for others so when things happen to our loved ones, we see them as opportunities and not catastrophes.
By looking at the world with a clear mind, we empower everyone we come in contact with to make the
choice for peace for themselves. By our own acceptance of what is, we let others know that they also
can choose to rise above suffering. W-135:18-1 reminds us of this, “What could you not accept, if you
knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come are gently planned by One
Whose only purpose is your good?” And that One is you!

This then reminded me of something Chief Joseph said in his surrender speech: “Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” And I have decided that this will now be my mantra. “I will fight no more forever.” I am tired of trying to make my world work the way I want it to. Each day I will begin my day with these words and I will move through my day doing the best I can to forgive whatever is presented to me that day. And I will hold His hand and trust. And I am grateful for all of you.




Creation of the Transcription Discussions
5th October, 2010
The purpose of the ACIM-Village is to support students of the Course in their study of this challenging spiritual philosophy using the extraordinary work of Kenneth Wapnick. The first line of support it offers is community and companionship through the discussion forum, an unstructured sharing of our path based on our personal experiences and learning. The second line of support I wish to create now is the option of participating in a more structured approach to Ken’s work, a sort of on-going classroom or laboratory, based around his lectures.

sunrise For this we shall use the transcripts of his workshops provided freely on the FACIM website, choosing one workshop and then working through it section by section. For each section, I shall provide questions and suggestions to stimulate our thinking about the ideas presented which we can then discuss at the Village Square.

In addition, for those interested and available, I will be organizing a monthly Skype meeting so we can discuss ‘live’ our thoughts and experiences working with these concepts. For each Skype meeting we will choose the passage from the workshop transcription that stood out most for us personally and then share with others our reason for choosing this passage.

I hope that our work through these transcriptions can be as informal in style as our cosy discussions by the Fireplace. What I most love about the Village is our coming together as friends, with people we have learned to appreciate and understand, to have patience with despite our differences and individual challenges. Above all, I would like to make sure that no one feels there is a need to accomplish this work, or that there might be any type of comparison with anyone else. We are here purely to learn about the beauty and peacefulness of releasing the importance we have placed on our judgments and separating thoughts of difference. This can be just another way to learn to observe the contents of our minds and to release ourselves from the prison of self-condemnation in which we have placed ourselves.

sunrise I have selected The Meaning of Judgment as the first lecture we will be studying. I believe this workshop is a perfect starting point for students who already have a sound basis in the principles of the Course, and offers us lots of depth for discussion about the experience and practice of these concepts, which is the real focus of this website. You can access the transcription of the entire workshop at the Foundation by clicking here, and each section shall be available with numbered paragraphs here in the Village Square. Since section I is rather long, I thought it would be better to divide into two parts. We shall work on paragraphs 1 - 16 for the next two weeks, culminating on October 17th with a Skype meeting, and then turn to paragraphs 17 - 26 for the following two weeks.

At any time I hope you would feel free to join the Transcription Discussions, to come and go as you wish, and to know that you are always welcome in the Village Square and by the Fireside for a cup of tea!



sunrise October 3rd Fireside Get-Together

We're getting ready for our Sunday morning/afternoon/evening 'worship' in the Tavern, and I'd like it if the people who are thinking of attending could take a look at this list of things to think about. It'll make it that much more fun if we manage to do just a little preparation.

1. Cup and plate and spoon required to participate (full or empty, but full is definitely more interesting).

2. Personal notes that each person reads out so we can get to know you a little. Could you please share with us:
Name, town, country, time zone
Weather outside, where you’re sitting, what’s around you, who else is there
Something about where you live that you’d like to tell us, something you like about your area or something we probably don't know.
Receive some questions (giving us some juicy details about your life!).
One, two or three lines from the Course that have struck you recently for their beauty or clarity.

Okay, that's it for each person's preparation. Then there are a few questions I'd like to ask you all about the Village in general to get your feedback, as points of discussion. There should be about six to eight of us in all, so by the time we get through all this we'll have been talking for an hour or so, I imagine. But if things go quickly and there's some free time left over, then I thought we could take a look together at the notes from the recent Ken workshop at Jamie's site. We could each read an entry one by one and then make any comments.

My atmosphere choices for this first informal fireside meeting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqG-7HD_PHI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVRQeiqZlKY

We’ll get more spiritually elevated in our choices as things progress. :-)

If anyone has any questions or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks!



Village Journal, 28th September, 2010

A visitor at the Village recently send me a moving email about an experience she was having with a memory of her father. We chatted about this by email which ended up talking a lot about the question of denial and I asked her if she would mind if I shared these thoughts between us with you all at the Village. She graciously accepted. It is a bit long, but then you all must be used to my long-windedness by now!

Dear Bernard,
As I told you, all my life I have tried to make it all about other people (especially, of course, about my loved ones) in form and just discovered it was only out of need. The need to be "good", the need to be loved, the need to be appreciated, etc., and I was very good at reasoning all things in the sense that I actually believed I "understand" other people and didn’t suffer from their neglect to take my needs or interests into account.

sunrise The biggest of my concealments was my parents’ divorce when I was a child. I adored my father and when he left the house, I am sure now, I was completely desolated and devastated, but I covered it up with a lot of reasoning and lived all my life completely sure that I loved him with all my heart. Until one day after some years of studying the Course, I was taking a walk and suddenly some passages from my past life arose. The moment I began to remember this a tremendous hate toward my father began to explode in my chest. I felt a rage I was not aware I could feel. In that moment, all those things that seemed so unbearable I could now learn to accept after a moment of thoughtful reasoning. This is why I would like some counsel from you.

This time I would like to work through this fully in content, not just in form. But I don’t want to delude myself again. I don’t want to fall into denial again. It took me years to accept all my hateful and horrendous thoughts from the ego, and I am just beginning to look at them without judgement (sometimes). I really want to take the next few steps, but I want to do it fully in content, with Jesus, and not just with my clever and subtle ego. Any of your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Dearest Village-friend,
Wow, such wonderful sharing, I feel quite honored. And you'll find this funny, so similar to my own personal story! I'll put it down briefly here in case there's anything of interest in it for you. My dad was a businessman who traveled all the time overseas from Australia. He was away from home about 6-9 months of the year in Japan or Europe or South Africa. I loved my dad a lot, especially since he was the only other guy in the family (I have two sisters), and he loved me lots, too. But he was constantly leaving. I even remember so clearly once when I was about nine, he had just come home and two weeks later he had to leave again and I was just fed up. I was screaming and carrying on, a real temper tantrum, and I watched him as he left the house and climbed into the taxi. I couldn't believe it.

sunrise Anyway, I had a real love-hate relationship with my father after that, but it tended toward hate for a long time because my mother left when I was 13 and I considered it my dad's fault. I hated him, it was true, and I didn't hide it. I wrote this letter once to a friend when I was 17 that I didn't send and I found it a few years ago. It was so terribly hateful and critical toward my father, it really shocked me to read. I eventually ended up blaming my father for all sorts of things in my life, things he really had nothing to do with. At one moment I remember screaming at him, "You're responsible for me being here (for my birth), you should know what I'm supposed to do with my life!" (Some questions never change!) Needless to say, we had a very difficult, strained relationship for many years, especially when he made it clear to me that he was absolutely against my first marriage. It took years for us to work things out again.

But one day I had just had enough of my hate for my father. I figured I had only one dad and he wasn't going to live forever: I had better start working something out with him before it was really too late. I knew I needed to change something in my own mind, and then with a little chance my dad might sense something had changed between us. I had been studying the Course for some years (I hadn't met Ken yet - this was in 1992 or so) and so I knew it was all about forgiveness. I had an image of my father that was really negative - very judgmental, paranoid, insecure, aggressive. And so I used an imaging technique in order to try to see my father differently and really get it into my head that he was something other than what I had always thought.

There was a holy Son of God in him somewhere; there was someone/something else in him completely different from what I thought, and yet I couldn't see it. So I pictured forgiveness in my mind the only way I could at the time: I saw my father sitting in a lotus position, meditating, clothed in beautiful white robes, with a brilliant aura, and he was so very, very peaceful and happy. It was very difficult in the beginning to form this picture properly. Something would quickly come up to make it fall apart, or tarnish the image, but eventually I could make it stick. I saw him looking inside himself, finding everything he had ever sought for, and then he was looking at me. And in his eyes I was no longer his son but an equal and a beloved brother. He was the Buddha, he was the Christ, he was an Angel. Most marvellous of all, what he then saw in me was exactly the same as that which he found in himself. It was a real communication between us.

sunrise And, you know, I felt so tremendously peaceful as a result of using this imagery (which of course was just reflecting the truth about his holy right mind). We still had disagreements after that but I just couldn't take it so seriously anymore; I couldn't believe that this man was the difficult, judgmental and unpleasant person he presented to me. And over time he changed, he really did. At least, that was my experience. He really became much kinder, patient and understanding. Where he had severely criticized my professional and personal choices in the past, he now was telling me that finding happiness in daily life was the only real goal any person should follow. (I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this from him!) Eventually we had a truly wonderful relationship, just as real brothers. We called each other often, and we frequently spoke of the past and how it was difficult for both of us but that it was over, and the present was the present. My father died in 2004 but I have never felt him far from me. On the contrary, I feel his support and spirit with me all the time, and whenever I dream of him, it is a dream of great peace and strength.

But now on to your experiences…
It's always useful when the walls in our mind begin to tumble and we have these moments of awareness of the true contents of our hearts. It seems this is what has happened with you with respect to your father. It might seem frightening, of course, to see such powerful thoughts and emotions come forward, but it is always valuable. As you know, the only way to do this and stay with peace is by keeping Jesus' hand firmly in yours. What this means is that no matter what comes forward in your mind, no matter the hatefulness or enraged, violent judgments, we keep one small part of our minds simply looking at what's going on. We just observe ourselves being involved with these thoughts, getting reacted by them, believing them, justifying them - all this activity is allowed within the forgiveness process.

There is nothing to deny, there is nothing that cannot be included in the love that Jesus holds out to us, and which you extend then to yourself. He already knows everything - everything. There is nothing he does not know already about you, about me, about all of us. He was like that once, too, so he knows, and he knows it's all okay. He knows it's okay because he knows that this is not all we are. We are the ego, and we are the holy Son of God. We have a violent, hateful and accusatory wrong mind, and we also have a forgiving, peaceful, harmless right mind.

And so whatever comes up is really okay. If it helps, imagine Jesus literally sitting or walking next to you holding your hand while you allow all the thoughts from your past to come up. And when you look at him, his regard is always so kind, so understanding, so accepting and peaceful. It is the kind of look that says to you, "My dearest sister, you can tell me anything you want and I will listen and I will not stop loving you. You can think anything you want, and I shall keep on loving you. Nothing you ever thought or ever did or said will ever stop me from loving you."

A couple of other things that might be useful...
When I began learning that my past suffering was simply my choice for pain instead of peace (because I had refused to look toward Jesus sharing his peace and strength with me), I undertook a special exercise. I went back and made a list of all the really horrible things I thought I had lived through with my family (and there was lots!!). I then went back to each event in my mind and re-viewed it as an observer, I saw myself 'being hurt', and I made myself see that in each of these very specific situations something inside me had actually chosen to have that particular perception of being hurt. There had been with me at the precise moment of that event another Presence that I had completely ignored, and I chose to see something else instead. I even allowed myself to feel the hurt of these specific situations, and then chose to look toward Jesus and see his kindness there in place of the rejection, the anger, and the injustice.

For instance, I was choosing to see that my mother preferred my sisters to me (I was supposed to be the ‘man around the house’ in my father’s absence and be responsible whereas they could be capricious and naughty and get away with it). I had interpreted this as meaning something terrible like I wasn't loved the way I wanted to be, my life was more painful and injust, I was deprived . But I wasn't unloved, because it wasn't my mother’s or my father's love I was really looking for anyway. It was never an issue with my mom or dad, but a fight I had going on with my Father and my Brother. I was insisting that things were painful, and They were there kindly holding my hand and looking me in the eye suggesting I join with them instead of with my separated identity. I kept going over these events until I could finally start to feel some peacefulness come into the specific events and memories. I really wanted these memories to lose their charge; I didn't want to keep blaming these people and feeling angry (and justified).

sunrise Another thing I think it would be useful to remember is that there will always still be some level of denial in our lives. The problem is not actually with your father. It is very useful at times to deal with the fundamental problem in terms of our relationships with our parents, but ultimately it is the problem of the separate identity we still wish to maintain at the expense of our real identity in spirit with Jesus. There will still be a certain level of denial for some time with respect to this. I don't think you need to try to 'get all you can' out of this relationship with your father. Just deal with the big parts of it that come up easily in your mind until you feel a certain amount of calm and peacefulness and non-judgment coming into your heart. Then you’ve done the work, and you can feel very peaceful that you have dealt with these memories and with this relationship in a responsible, adult manner. You don’t have to get intense about the process and try to unearth things when they don’t come naturally.

After you’ve been working with what comes up naturally, I think it would be better to turn your attention to other memories or relationships, and particularly toward daily life as it unfolds for you. All the denial that you think might possibly be present in your relationship with your father is also perfectly present in your daily life. This is inevitable. So if you're not aware of all the hatefulness you contain toward your father, that's quite okay! – because as soon as someone steps in front of you in the supermarket line with a big bag of groceries and you feel victimized and unrecognized, you will have a perfect opportunity to deal with the exact same emotions and thoughts! There is absolutely no difference.

Denial is always only denial of our preference for sensitivity, injustice, and blame, and for turning away from the Love of Jesus and strength, no matter the form this takes. Daily life will ALWAYS give you the perfect chance to see the contents of your mind: that is the new role the world contains for a student of ACIM. It is not longer a place we just suffer in everyday (an insane prison that haphazardly deals out injustice and punishment); it is now a wonderful classroom. Your daily life is the perfect mirror-reflection of the contents of your mind. In fact, that is ALL you ever see – no matter what you think you see. Whenever we open our eyes, we are only looking at our thoughts that appear to come back to us as images and experiences.

We are never really looking at anyone ‘the way they are’, our parents, our loved ones, or anyone else. The ‘way they are’ is obvious: they are always a pendulum swinging between the right and wrong mind, just like us. And that’s all: a peaceful, holy Son of God in spirit on one hand, and a confused, enraged, depressed, needy, manipulative and guilty physical identity on the other. What we see in another person depends on which way our decision-maker is leaning, i.e. what we wish to see in another. We are only ever looking at the reflection of our mind, no matter what we think is out there. And what we see in another –something we judge as insufficient and failing, or something we recognise as peaceful underneath the confusion – will always tell us the choice we have made.

sunrise Feeling anything but a calm peacefulness and lightness is a sign we are tending toward separation. And there is no guilt or ‘wrong’ in this (we all do this ninety-five percent of the time). We look at this choice calmly and remind our minds that we have just preferred to experience our separate frightened and guilty physical identity instead of the calm vision of forgiveness of our spiritual identity. We thought for a moment that there were more rewards in playing the game of being a separated physical identity, of identifying with ‘Bernard’, ‘Frank’, ‘Lucy’, ‘Janet’, (fill in your name, please), of feeling her/his needs and personality-parameters, than with having a less specific set of characteristics that is the nature of pure Love.

You can be sure there is still a lot of hatefulness in you (just as in me, as in Fred, Morgan, Brian and Chloe, as in absolutely everyone). You can also be sure there is a lot of Love there in you, too. What we need to learn to do is be completely unsurprised and unimpressed by this. To learn to be able to accept this and look at this more and more lightly. We breathe a peaceful breath and say, "Ahhhh, hate, mmm, no problem with that at all!" Because Jesus has no problem with it at all. I couldn't emphasize enough how tremendously important it is not to judge hatefulness. Not in you, and not in anyone else. Hate, murder, violence in you, or in me - they have no power. They just have no power at all. This can’t be repeated enough. Not the hatefulness in the supermarket or in the street, not the hatefulness in Afghanistan, not all the hatefulness in World War II. None of it has any power at all. They are a wisp of air, a vague shadow, a finger held up to the sun - that's all. A slight ripple on the perfectly still ocean.

I get the impression that you might still think there is something wrong with hatefulness and that you have to process it and forgive it to get rid of it (in a hurry!). That's not really going to help you, I don’t think. There’s too much pressure in that. Jesus wouldn't want you to think for a minute that there's a problem with hate and that you have to get rid of it. We can't get rid of something that’s not really there. Jesus knows hate is nothing. Hate is a joke; it is truly nothing more than a joke, an illusion, a magician's trick. We can't get rid of ‘nothing’. How can you do that?

The student was troubled by his past life. He had made many mistakes and had been an angry and resentful man. Now, wandering the hills around the monastery, he wanted to get rid of his hatefulness and replace it with peace. One day his teacher came to him, sat him down, drew an object from his satchel and placed it before his student.
“All your sin lies in this bowl,” he says. “Now, empty the bowl of its contents!”
The student glances at the container, then meets his teacher’s eyes.
“But the bowl has nothing in it, master – how can I do that?”
“Do it, I say!” commands the sage.
sunrise The student looks downcast at the vacant spot in the bowl desperately trying to figure out how to do what his master asks of him. Feeling more and more uncomfortable, he stares fixedly at the wooden container until his thoughts are a tumult of anxiety and oppression. If he doesn’t manage to do what his teacher asks, he shall be terribly ashamed, and still just as sinful. Eventually his mind snaps and just gives up its hopeless pursuit; he sees he has failed, he is incapable of even this simplest of tasks.
“I cannot do this,” he sighs now quietly to himself.
Accepting his failure with peace, he looks back at his teacher with a calm resignation.
The old man smiles and bows gently toward his student. “I see you have understood where not to look. Now, will you be willing to stop trying to get rid of something that is not there?”

We can only learn to see that hate and guilt are nothing, that there is nothing there, and then it has no more power over us. A fight between two puppet-dolls, like Ken and Barbie, doesn’t scare us because we know it’s not real. But we are tempted to believe that what happens between human beings is real and important. The only way expressions of confusion (hatefulness) can have power over us is if we think the hate is real, is a sin, if we think someone is 'bad' because of these expressions of hatefulness. Because we judge it. We give that expression of confusion (hatefulness) effects (power to affect me or another person), and then we judge it as bad because of these effects.

sunrise On another note, perhaps we think our hatefulness (confusion) has made us 'bad'. But it is certain that while we are in the ego, we will be filled with hate. And, wonderfully, Jesus has no problem with this. He will let us spend as much time as egos as we want because he knows it has no effect on anything. However, he also knows that we aren't happy when we consider hate real because we will be afraid of it and sad. And so this is why he would help us. He doesn't help us because he knows hate and guilt are bad and we have to get rid of them at all costs; he wants to help us because he knows we are unhappy while we still carry these illusions. Once we begin to see through the illusion, he knows we will be happy. He doesn't say, “Once you begin to get rid of hate and guilt you will be happy”. Again, we cannot get rid of something that's not real. We can only learn to see that it's an illusion, a fiction, a dream, and begin to smile at our childishness thinking it was real, and then it will naturally disappear.

A one-line summary of all of the above:
I think if you can just fall lightly and gently into practicing observing your reactions to your memories and the world around you on a daily basis and doing so with light-heartedness and good humour, then you will be making great progress along this path.

I think I better send this now! Sorry if it's a bit long. Sometimes it takes me a long time to say something very simple!

Much, much love,
Bernard

(Any comments here)



Taking the Village 'Live': Announcing (drum roll)... the "Fireside Get-togethers".

This will be a live event once every so often (to be arranged) that is to be an informal meeting of participants at the Village who just want to have a little live company from time to time to get to know each other, share tidbits, and maybe read through a passage from a Ken workshop (if we're feeling brave). What I'm thinking of is recreating the same atmosphere as we have at the Village but with vocal instead of written exchanges. And so I would like to preserve the informality and looseness of our discussions, and at the same time add in a little Ken work from time to time (to keep our minds sharp - so we can keep up with our kids, for example).

sunrise This will not, in fact, be a formal study group since that implies regularity and 'work', and some of us already participate in weekly groups. I would prefer if we thought about it simply as a time we set apart in the week to come together with special friends who encourage us along our path, who are willing just for the space of an hour or so to try to think a little differently about the goings-on in their lives, and would like to ask questions or share thoughts with others that will help us all come to another level of understanding about our spiritual philosophy. And this would be for whoever can make it - no obligations or expectations. I'll be there in a comfy chair at the Fireside if anyone wants to come hang out for a while and talk. Oh, and a pre-requisite for attending would be to come with a plate, spoon and a mug to enjoy the cookies and tea set out on the coffee table in front of the fire. No plate and mug, no talkies. See? And I'll ask for proof that you have them by playing a little percussion with the spoon.

sunrise If you would like to participate, please set up a skype address at skype.com (super easy), then send me your skype address to bernard@pauloandthemagician.com. You'll just need a broadband connection and a headset. Then we'll set up a time and date, you'll call me at that time on Skype, I'll open all the lines to everyone, and Presto! Instant tea-party, er, meeting.

I have no expectations about this, so I hope you don't. It's just for fun and to see if we can work out a way of joining with each other in yet another fashion in order to deepen the experience we have managed to create here at the Village. If you feel the Village experience has helped you gain a sense of joining and sameness and companionship along the Path, then let's try together to take the Village 'live'.



Mayor's Journal, 20th September, 2010

The Hate-Fest of the Evil ‘Maker’
I’ve been a bit of a ‘silent sufferer’ for the past few days. Did you notice? The reward of the silent sufferer is that no one notices. Hehe. I mean, it’s nice if people notice how much you are trying to disguise your suffering, but the real ‘bliss’ is when absolutely no-one notices at all! That’s when the ego says, “Really no one cares and no one loves me at all – boo hoo!”

Seriously, the last three-four days I’ve spent in close communion with a part of my mind that didn’t leave me much slack. What a fascinating visit into the depths of the Maker (a term from Paulo)! As I posted recently, I am now officially guilt-free with respect to the building trade – I no longer have any qualms about watching others being busily productive around work sites. That’s a closed chapter, leaving the space open for something else. What I haven’t escaped yet is the condemnation that surrounds the question of the next activity.

sunrise This bout of egomania started recently when I visited a friend’s house, an Englishman who, together with his wife, had built his house a number of years ago with the idea of selling it then starting again somewhere else. This was his second house, and since he works very well, he had done a really fine job: lovely bathrooms and beautiful swimming pool area. Well, just the other day he announced to us that he had found a buyer and they would be moving out in a few weeks time. The background to this story is that my reason for building my house some seven years ago was to do exactly the same as this English couple – build, sell, move on, start again, build bigger, sell… Only I had never been able to make the final step: galvanize a plan for selling the house. The result has been that there are loads of things on the house here that have never been finished properly. So suddenly there was within my immediate circle of friends someone who had managed to do much better than me at the game I had set up for myself. That was my ego’s wonderful interpretation, and step one along the path to my recent hate-fest.

Step two along the path occurred the other evening during a dinner with friends. I thought I had come up with a fabulous new activity for myself (which I had not yet divulged to my Village-family only because I wanted to be sure it would work). Brief presentation: There are lots of English retirees in this area of France but they remain quite isolated from each other, and the language barrier often prevents them from making relationships with the French. I thought of setting up a type of virtual ‘Community Center’ for these people where they could get to know each other by chatting on my site that would also offer information for getting by in France with classified ads, list of events, directory of English-speaking services etc. And I could set up a revenue stream by accepting advertising from the professionals wishing to tap into this market. Yes, I wanted to take advantage of some skills and knowledge that I had developed in learning to take care of you all here in the Village, and to do something else useful and constructive with the internet.

sunrise Well, this idea did not seem to appeal particularly to the people I was sharing the evening with. In fact, some of them thought that it was a downright bad idea because it placed the English within a cultural and linguistic ‘bubble’, and took away their incentive to make efforts to integrate in their new homeland. I won’t go on.

Needless to say, in the two above examples, it is easy to see how someone might slip into ego-land without too much effort. In the first example, I had the choice between condemning myself for being less disciplined and focused than my neighbor, or reassuring myself that I could still make something of my house project. And in the second example I could choose between condemning my dinner partners for their lack of vision and support, or reassuring myself that I had a winning project or that another one would come along.

And as the days passed, all these four possibilities were failing. Obviously.

The ego is tricky, oh, so, so tricky. It will get me to go along with its arguments, even to the extent of having me believe that I’m doing the Course and bringing Jesus in to help me with my problem. But the whole thing was a set-up, a trap. And I was stuck.

I finally got why it wasn’t working, but not before a lot of heartache and self-flagellation. It just seemed that whatever my eyes or thoughts settled upon, there was an irrefutable condemnation of my abilities and plans. I would try to divert my thoughts from thinking of these two problems, the website and the house, and no matter what my attention settled upon, within the blink of an eye, a malicious thought had turned some banal observation into a vicious condemnation. Why?

I was trying to deal with the ego on its own terms.

I was arguing with it. Reasoning with it. I was remaining firmly within its concept of my identity, one of a very individual life with a very specific story and pattern to its activities and experiences. When I noticed myself failing and feeling pain no matter what I tried (all this during a bike ride on Saturday to try to clear my head), I then found something inside was speaking to me. It was saying, “There’s no peace here. Do you want to win against the ego and convince yourself that things will work out – is that what you really want?” Of course a part of me wanted to say, Yes, I would like to know that things will work out, and what will become of me. And then the Voice would reply, “Is that really all you want, to know that you are doing sufficiently well in this world in comparison to others and that you will be safe in the future?” And I couldn’t answer in the positive. After all, it seemed that this kind of ‘happiness’ would be extremely fragile still. No, what I wanted was just happiness – end of story.

And so the Voice started asking me just to look at what this dark little character was constantly saying in my mind. That’s all, just to look, listen, and pay attention lightly.

So I listened and looked, and started getting depressed because it seemed to have many convincing thoughts and arguments. And the Voice would say, “No, you’re not just looking now; you’ve started thinking about what it’s saying, not just looking and listening.”

sunrise True. I was following its line of thinking, and I wasn’t just listening anymore. So I went back to listening calmly and quietly. Pretty soon I could just go about doing whatever I was doing (painting the kitchen) and just listen to this terribly pernicious creature as it threw all its arguments at me. And instead of trying to convince myself now that I could indeed finish the house properly and could indeed find the right professional project, there was just a quiet absence of thinking. It was more and more pleasant in my mind, and I slowly – not quickly – began to climb out of this dark space I had plunged into for two days (to Pat’s great relief!).

So, now I’m transformed! The mind is a far more pleasant place to dwell in. But what I really learned is that I still don’t have any answers – and that’s really okay! Perhaps the real learning here is that it’s not about having the answers. It’s only ever about learning how to look at the mind searching for answers. In fact, it’s only ever about learning to look at the mind looking for whatever it’s looking for.

And that’s when I got something pretty amazing. My body-brain will do what it will do in terms of projects and activities, and the mind that stays within the confines of the body’s activities and ways is trapped. But the mind that begins to be purely the observer of what the body-brain is doing begins to find freedom and peace. This, of course, is Forgiveness, the place of calm, kind and patient looking – and that’s all there is. That is all that actually exists. Or there is the disaster-focused criticism of the ego. One or the other.

It seemed to me for just a moment that the only real activity of the mind that leads to peacefulness is this observation, and, astonishingly, within this constant, minute-by-minute observing there is no real personal identity – there is only observing. It is very peaceful, and calm observing, but there is no sense of personal identity in the same way as when I was filled with the dilemmas and dramas of my questions. And when observing in this way, in a real sense it felt almost as if there was no observer as such. There was observing going on, but no real identifiable observer as such. Almost like when you’re dreaming at night and you see the characters from above but you’re not one of them – you’re just looking at them, but you don’t seem to have a real role or place in the dream, and you don’t really feel like ‘you’ as such. It was a wonderfully freeing feeling.

sunrise Now I’m going to back to my regular Monday activities trying to work out the next step on this path toward a new activity (and out of unemployment!), but it feels much, much lighter. I’ll do the same things, make plans for the website, think of what I need to do to finish this house, reflect on yet another activity (teaching French), but it’s all going to seem that much lighter and easier. The part of me that was so attached to having these activities be meaningful (read: heavy and significant to my ego and sense of being a Bernard) seems to have faded slightly. It’s not gone, I can sense it’s still there, but it seems to have less hold on me. Like it can say what it wants (and will) but now I’m placing myself more as the observer and care less about whether ‘Bernard’ manages to work his life out and ‘succeed’. He looks and feels much more like a character in a dream now – just one more life and body on this funny planet.

Ahh… Finally a break for a while. Just don’t ask me what I’m doing with my life – I couldn’t tell you! But I can tell you what it’s like to just sit here watching it all play out.

(Any comments here.)



sunrise “Now, where is it?”
(Rummaging around in the kitchen, opening cupboards, closing cupboards, moving things on the counter)
“Aha!” (Holding up an object) “No… not it either.”
(Huffing, puffing, sighing)
“I know it’s here somewhere!”
(Gazes out the window reflecting)
“Okay, now I get the deal.”
(Opens forbidden and absolutely out-of-bounds-by-all-men cupboard to Patricia’s secret store of gingernuts and organic chocolate with Macadamia)
“Eureka! Come to daddy, my baby!”
(Opens packet and inserts nose deep into the contents and inhales slowly)
“Ahhhh, now we’re talking WAKE-UP TIME.”
(Takes a spoon and ladles several generous scoops of pure Jamaican Moka into Village-size large Italian espresso-maker, lights fire on stove, waits extremely impatiently until he hears the spluttering of steam issuing from the innards of coffee maker. Throws his arms outward and turns pirouettes to spread the heavenly aroma to all corners of the Tavern. Sets out 10 little demi-tasses on the counter, each with its own little saucer and spoon and lump of sugar. Opens a large paper bag and heaps the steamy warm French pastries into a wicker basket. Adjusts the bouquet of orange and white dahlias on the low table. Opens Tavern door to Village Square where a fabulous sun filters through the branches and leaves of the plane trees.)
“Okay, guys!” he cries to the empty square. “Ready when you are!”

PS I apologize in advance to all those who don’t get into this kind of metaphor for happiness and peacefulness, and I ask them to adjust and modify the symbols to suite their preferences. I would kindly ask them to feel warmed by my intention and good wishes for them, rather than feel obliged to deal with the indigestion such croissants and coffee might engender.



Mayor's Journal, 7th September, 2010

Pat and I just came back from a few days on the Atlantic coast. Of course, when we look out on the Atlantic in the evening we see a magnificent sunset over the ocean, with the sun setting like an immense fireball over the crisp, serene line of the oceanic horizon. It’s our version of your Pacific, and we were in the perfect place, the Bordeaux coastline where well over a hundred miles of uninterrupted perfect beach stretches from one end of your vision to the other. A very wide sandy beach separates wild pine forests from the sea, and on particularly hot days, the air is filled with a heady, aromatic mixture of pine oil and ocean spray. We have our favorite campground where we park our little van under the pine trees and then take the bikes to get us from one place to another along the cycle trails that weave through the woods and alongside the coastline. It’s a marvelous place to relax, and an even more wonderful place to reflect and meditate.

Okay, so that’s enough of the postcard perfect scenario. Where does it get juicy? you ask.

sunrise My particular inner work for these four days on the coast settled on stepping back from specific knowledge and stepping into a moment-by-moment questioning of my experience. How wild! I tried to turn the mind off every time it kicked into trying to ‘understand’ what was going on, not trying systematically to recall all of Ken’s teaching in order to place every sensation in a perfect Wapnickian context (which is very good under other circumstances). It was about trying to put theory to the side, and come back to the basic experience we are all seeking. If peace were there, it had to be simple to find, not complicated. In my life at home it was tricky finding enough quiet to do that kind of work. Here on the coast with so little going on I thought it would be the perfect place to try to shoot for the stars and get some of that great ‘peace that surpasses this world’.

And so I spent my time quietly presenting a few basic questions to my still restless spirit. “Peace is here, comfort is here,” I would suggest to myself, gazing out at the infinite calm of the sea. As I’m sure you all know, you can be in the most idyllic place in the world, and if you really pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, you’ll see that “perfect peace” is just not there. Honestly, the surroundings could not have been more beautiful, and yet the mind can come up with a hundred thousand infinitesimally small reasons why exquisite peace just couldn’t be found. I’ll give you a few stream-of-consciousness examples, starting with the “lights-out” on the first night:
Wow, this mattress isn’t as comfortable as my regular bed. Hope I won’t get a back-ache. That won’t be much fun for bike riding.
We’re pretty far from the toilet block – if I have to get up to pee in the night, it’s going to be one hell of a trek to get past all those tents and camping cars.
Several hours pass.
“Bam!” Wha….? Oh, a pine cone on the roof of the van, that’s all.
Two midnight prowls to the toilet block later (I know, I have a small bladder, but I drink a lot of water)… Ok, let’s start to get some sleep now.
“Clunk, clatter, bang, smack.”
Eh? Oh, they’re cleaning the toilet block, must be 6 am or so.
Dawn. 7am. 8 am.
I open the side door of the van. Hmm, what’s with this mist? No, honey, it’s cold and damp this morning, but it’ll warm up later. Let’s go get some fresh bread for breakfast.
(Many, many people, too many people, are heading in the direction of the little store to get their bread, late-risers like us trying to get there before all the baguettes are sold out.)
Okay, let’s just try to get there before this horde of hungry-looking Germans.
Hey, Pat, d’you see that, we got the last bread! (I look sheepishly away as a large Dutchman scans the shelf.)
Long line for the checkout.
Don’t worry, we’ll be eating soon; your first coffee is just minutes away. I reassure myself (no, not Pat; she’s not fussed; I am)

Do you get the picture yet? Here’s a hint: paradise is never, never, what it seems. Anything that appears to be an outside picture of comfort can usually have holes shot through it pretty quickly.

On the whole, I felt fine. All was well in my world. However when I paid minute attention to my mind, it was in a constant dialogue (war, perhaps?) with ‘reality’, appraising, assessing, judging, evaluating, and coming up with an endless stream of conclusions about why my state of mind was the way it was. In other words, the inside was perpetually ‘at the effect’ of the outside. The way I felt always, always, had something to do with what was going on around me. There was this sort of weird symbiosis between the specific circumstance of my body and this Geiger-like sensitive machine in my head whose needle would vacillate randomly between ‘happiness’ and ‘discomfort’.

All I could do was observe. I couldn’t control it at all. I would try to fix the needle on ‘happiness’, reminding myself that I had all that I could possibly want as a very privileged member of the human race, but it just didn’t work at all. I had vacation time, and money to spend, and a beautiful place to be: many things that most of the planet does not enjoy. Something inside would constantly come up with some conclusion, some explanation for the way I felt, and it was always based on what was going on around me. My mind had no independent capacity to fix its experience from within on something firm and stable.

sunrise That’s when I brought in Ken/ACIM, and a questioning technique I had decided to try to practice during this vacation. First, some basic reminders: “I could see peace instead of … (hungry hordes of Germans and Dutch).” What this means to me is that there is a latent experience available of something extraordinary that my mind is not availing itself of. This is no big revelation, of course. All religions speak of this in one form or another. But what is particular about the Course and Ken is that they help us to understand that this ‘something else’ is not really picked up by our normal (wrong) mind (which actively resists this), but by another faculty we possess but are unaware of (the right mind). Ken helps us further understand that this right mind is not really a ‘place’ as such that we switch to, but simply a process, an activity we engage our minds in: that of looking at our wrong minds but without the normal judgment and condemnation. As he says, it is being in our wrong minds but without judgment.

This is helpful because instead of looking for some mythical and impossible to achieve ‘other mind’, I don’t look for anything else at all. I just look at what’s going on in front of me (falling pine cones, damp mist and noisy cleaning ladies), notice the sensitivity I have set up in my mind to the outside, and ask myself a few questions about this. These are my questions:

What do you believe is preventing you from knowing that happiness exists here? (mushy mattresses, for example) What is your judgment about this? (mushy mattresses are bad for me, they give me a sore back and that stops me from experiencing any happiness)
Is this perception/judgment true? (Hell yeah!)
Can you be absolutely sure that it is true? Can you say absolutely that there is no way you can experience happiness even if you have a sore back?
Uh, umm, gee, I mean… well, you see, if you… I think… gawn, okay NO! I can’t say absolutely definitively that I cannot experience happiness if my back is hurting.

And then, “WOOSH!” In that instant of cracking open my mind just this teeniest fraction, admitting that I couldn’t really block out an experience of happiness with a sore body, I noticed a wave of lightness and happiness enter and take over my mind.

Further questions helped me deal with my vague conviction that sore bodies prevent one from knowing happiness:
How do you feel when you tell yourself that you can’t possibly be free and happy because of a bodily condition?
Pretty crummy.
How might you feel if you didn’t give power to this belief any more, a belief that you have already seen is incorrect?
Better? Yeah, okay, okay, I’d feel a lot better. Yes, I’d actually be available to feeling what’s really there, rather than sitting here insisting on some obstacle that is not really a problem.

sunrise And in that instant so many things would become clear. The only problem was repeating insistently and unconsciously that I couldn’t be happy because… (fill in the blank yourself). The only problem was the automatic, unquestioned activity of the mind that immediately set about attributing blame and responsibility to the outside world (‘projection’ for you psychology buffs) as a way of preventing me from seeing that peace was always just a breath away.

In the instant of realizing this totally insane activity of the mind, the problem dissolved and a lightness returned that I couldn’t have expected. The first time I practiced this on my vacation I was pretty thrilled. The noises of other campers and the various bothers of camping started to be dealt with quickly in the same manner. I started bringing all these little upsets one after the other to this questioning spirit and they began to lose their specific charge. My day started to even out, the mini-crises typically experienced while on vacation began to fade (such as that slight tension between two people when they disagree about the next idyllic thing to do – how mad!).

We bathed, we cycled, we strolled in the beach foam, we ate ice-cream, we gazed at sunsets, we window-shopped… and we lived normal lives, lives bothered by the miniature interruptions to heaven (nonetheless potentially deadly) that happen as part of the human experience. But the motion of my mind through the day started to resemble more and more the calm, rolling ocean: a slight swelling toward an upset, a questioning peak of asking myself if I wanted to hold on to this judgmental conviction (which wanted to assert something mad and impossible), and then the smooth ebbing of the upsetting impulse and the filling of my internal sea with a gleeful happiness and silliness, laughing at the idea that I could have wanted to attach myself to a particular condition at the expense of a totally free experience. The kind of free experience I had hoped to find on vacation at the seaside, but that I found had nothing to do with the Atlantic at all. The ocean was there, inside. If anything, focusing on the external ocean was leading me slowly to disappointment. Nothing could ever really fulfill my demands for the perfect vacation. Nothing outside could ever be that exceptional.

To be continued…

NB: Some of you might be familiar with this questioning technique which is the specific and wonderful contribution of Byron Katie to the field of non-duality and self-exploration. Definitely worth exploring and integrates with Ken's work. More on this another time.

(Anything to say? Comments here.)



Village Bulletin, August 29th, 2010
A dear friend and true brother just wandered down the path into the Village Square and left the following message for us all at the Fireside. I apologize for the late posting of this message (due to my absence from the computer for 24 hours and the need to authorize his message on the control panel).

Hey everyone,

Nice to see some familiar names here. A lot of people I’m very fond of. I’m glad to know The Village has been such a nice social gathering for the friendships that were begun at the monastery.

I thought with the closing of the monastery I’d come over and pop in for a visit to say thank you to all of you who participated, and all of the kindness you’ve shown me through the years. It makes me happy to see you’ve found a new home here.

For anyone concerned about the new site missing FACIM notes or the daily Q&A etc., everything will still be there, only the monk theme will be gone. We’re hoping to be back online tonight, but if not we should be up tomorrow.

The closing of the monastery, no more monk etc., has been in the works for awhile. The timing was set very specifically by Ken; I just happily followed along, as I could see it coming, and was ready and wanted to end it as well. It feels right, and good. Like Bernard said, the monk-metaphor could only last so long, and its time had come. All that is disappearing is a costume over a costume, so nothing much at all. Plain is more helpful now, and I know this decision is a win for everybody.

Thank you for being an integral part of it all, and making it a such a fun time. I hope you will feel as good about this transition as I do.

Love,
Jamie



Mayor's Journal, 28th August, 2010
I hope you all are feeling peaceful with the closing of the Monastery. Our beloved Jamie is simply shedding a skin, and his presence will be all the fresher and purer for these changes. There is no need to be concerned – Jamie’s life is about serving as a wise teaching resource for all of ACIM students, and he will not be gone for long. (Indeed, he is not gone at all, if anyone needs him.) He will be re-surfacing very soon but in a slightly different, more appropriate form, that is all. It would be very difficult, and not entirely appropriate, for anyone to retain a teaching metaphor such as ‘Monk’ and ‘Monastery’ for too, too long. At some point such a metaphor and structure is no longer needed.

We will all have very fond memories of that place which certainly still lives in my heart in a vibrant and real way. I still get chills when I think of the intense sharing and laughter I found in parading through the corridors and halls of that wonderful place. I’m so happy I got there just in time (April 2009) to really enjoy the crescendo of activity and creativity that burst through its pages. I hope you feel likewise. If I might suggest, perhaps our role is to take the love and generosity we felt during that time and find some way to express them in our lives. There are so many ways of doing this. I’m sure you can come up with one or two. It would be a great pity if we held on to anything else in our memories except the gift Jamie gave us during that time. My love to you all through this, just another step along the path, Homeward.



Village Bulletin, 26th August, 2010
Hear ye, hear ye! (translation: Yo, listen in, y'all!)
An itinerant Village sage strolled through the market place this morning and shared these extraordinary words with us all:

"Dear you-know-who, I still love you lots, and will always do.
Even if we get into a fight,
And I’ll hate you while we’re fighting, and then remember that I’m only fighting with myself,
And would rather love you than fight you – and wouldn’t life be grand,
If I could do that will all the people in the world,
Even the ones I instinctively dis-like for no good reason at all.

Yes, I get it now (: – that’s what I’m here to practice –
To love when I love,
And to love even when consumed by hate,
Until only love remains."



sunrise New Gallery: The Birthday Page!

Announcing the introduction of a new gallery where we take the time to celebrate the perfect and beautiful sameness of each day, each day that we are re-born in the image our brother Jesus shares with us. He knows our splendid wholeness and perfection, and he knows we are one with him, in that serene place far above the concerns of our individual lives.

There are some fun images here on this page, symbols we are all familiar with that help us remember to take our path lightly, to let go of our judgments and worries for a moment. Perhaps it's your birthday today, or it will be soon! Anyway, enjoy your time here and feel free to make any comments to those whose birthday it might be. And remember, each day some 18 million people on the planet re-live that same date they chose to slip into this incarnate awareness. What does that day mean for you? A decision for separation and imprisonment, or a decision to remember that no image or experience of individuality can ever separate you from the Love and Freedom to which you belong eternally?

Many blessings, and happy re-birthday to you!

(P.S. Gallery can be found on the top navigation bar under AcimVillage:Galleries)



Mayor’s Journal, 18th August, 2010
Because I'm a bit lazy (and also because I've been a bit busy with much more important things like birthdays) I'm taking this journal entry from a response I made to Bev's comment on the Village Square page.

Bev, nice thoughts from the Q&A. "We cannot know what the HS will show us..." That reminds me of a similar line somewhere where Jesus tells us not to be attached to what he has us say, once we have forgiven (very rough representation of his actual thought). There's something about this going past our logical, thinking minds that still perplexes me. It's just not something we can 'understand' as such.Perhaps it's because once we have chosen to listen to the Holy Spirit, ie once we have chosen to release our judgment and listen for the voice of kindness, then we are no longer in our familiar logical 2+2=4 wrong mind. I'm sure lots of things will look and feel different then.

This reminds me, I was wondering about this recently... It occurred to me that when we're in the right mind, it doesn't have the same way of sensing 'life' as we are familiar with. Life as we typically feel its passage in front of our noses is a series or progression of sensory perceptions that are transmitted to us via our psycho-physical bodies.

(As we know, these bodies are constructed of nothing more than the belief in separation and individuality. Perhaps more accurately said, they are not constructed at all, but simply maintained as an image in the mind, maintained not by the belief in individuality, but by the belief in guilt surrounding the so-called separation. Standing alone, the belief in individuality would not last more than a micro-second, since the right-mind (Holy Spirit) would instantly correct this silliness and return our minds to the true state of Oneness. But once invested with guilt, which means confirming in our minds that the separation has had consequences and effects, and that these effects require a response (notably punishment of some sort), then the idea seems to take on a real life of its own, and becomes the wrong mind.)

Anyway, my thought was that pretty much everything I think and feel comes transmitted to me through this wrong mind which has its way of automatically perceiving everything so as to confirm the reality of what I think is 'me'. I believe that even my approach to doing the Course is influenced by this automatic 'getting' mechanism of my perceptions. I guess what I'm trying to say is that most often when I'm working through Ken's material I'm doing so with the idea of accomplishing something, of getting to another state, of wanting to perceive something differently. And somehow I'm thinking that I'm still defining the goal of doing this work through my wrong mind. I still think that the answer I receive is going to conform to all the other answers and responses and results I've had in my life. And yet now I don't think that's really it at all.

When I have had moments that I would call right-minded, then they somehow don't fit into the boxes of the psycho-physical perceptions and experiences I've had to date. I've never had experiences of euphoria or revelation, nor even any I would call miraculous or beatific of any nature. But I have known something which is just simply peaceful and light. It's a state where I just don't feel bothered by things in the same way, and time and problems seem to pass by almost unperceived. I react to whatever I have to react to, but it seems to be done in a more uninvolved, uninvested way. It's a bit strange, really. And I've been wondering if that's what Jesus means when he talks about timelessness, about actual right-minded experience being outside of time altogether. There just doesn't seem to be anything significant happening outside to mark the passage of time, to mark one moment as more or less important than another. To signify that the next instant will be better, or might be worse, than the next.

So it has been seeming to me lately that the goal of this teaching has nothing to do with any of our typical sensing/perceiving mechanisms, but takes us completely outside of this, to another place altogether. Funny, because I thought I'd always been working toward having a better experience here as the person I thought I was. Is any of this making any sense at all? I know some of you have had moments like this since I've felt it in your ponderings. Anyone want to share moments like this you might have had?

(Please make comments here.)



Mayor’s Journal, 9th August, 2010
A Village resident has been having a tough old time with a physical condition that required surgery. Unfortunately the operation didn’t go as well as it should have, and now this person is battling with feelings of anger toward the surgeon, and anger toward herself for allowing the operation to have taken place. How to find peace at such times…? Some thoughts of mine (please share any helpful thoughts of your own using the page link below):

Dear Village-friend,
I'm moved by your honesty and your desire to transform this experience. And how challenging! There are some injustices which just seem so... well, unjust! I can't say I've ever been in a similar situation (well, actually, I nearly lost my left hand as a result of a poorly done op on a sinovial cyst), but I certainly know what's it's like to feel badly done by, and by someone who refuses to accept their part in the whole thing (who doesn’t?). At those times I just try to get in touch with the part of me that is feeling so outraged and hurting, and talk to it as to a good friend, a friend that I love and understand and for whom there is perhaps no easy solution. And sometimes there is no easy solution to the outside situation. But there is always an easier feeling we can have about the difficult outer situation.

sunrise This life will always throw up serious challenges in our direction. That’s just the nature of life here. Some of them we will feel responsible for, and others not. While ultimately according to ACIM we are responsible for everything that happens to us here, we are specifically encouraged to invite a feeling of some peace instead of guilt for what we might be tempted to accuse ourselves of. Sometimes this just doesn't come easily! And in that case we hold ourselves gently even as the feelings pour out of us. Your outrage and hurt are ours, too. We all feel that way (though we might be hiding it better), and so it’s okay to be honest about what’s there. It’s only when we know how badly we feel that we can begin to try to feel another way about it.

Although during a meltdown there is no possible way of choosing to see things differently, afterward a quieter time can come when the thoughts and feelings come more slowly. It is then that we might begin to choose to make certain suggestions to ourselves. You proposed one good ‘turnaround’ – I’m not hating him; I’m hating me. Reversing the projection is always a great way of starting to shift the pain. ACIM really helps us in explaining that we maintain these feelings of self-hate (yes, 'maintain', which is why they don’t go away easily) because they feel like ‘life’ within us: they feel like our life; it feels like me, and the pain feels like my pain. Of course, it is actually just ‘the’ pain of the separation. It is the insanely painful feeling of believing oneself to be totally isolated in a vulnerable physical-psychological body subject to the whims of irresponsible people. Knowing why we do this can be very helpful in learning to let go the need to continue feeling this way. But it takes a long, long time. We are in fact very attached to this sensation of pain – it really does feel like ‘life’, as truly mad as this sounds. Peace, or the absence of this extreme pain, actually seems contrary to the movement of our mind and spirit.

We have to, in essence, re-train our minds to recognize peace (the absence of pain) as the state we really want. This peace can be felt anytime we wish, but it cannot come while we are still inviting the pain. And we are inviting the pain while we continue condemning ourselves or others, whether this is justified in terms of the world or not. The only question, despite what the world has done, is only ever “How do I want to feel?” And we must continue to say for a long time still, “I want to feel pain, and that’s basically why I do. I want to feel pain still because it feels like “me” and I’m not at all familiar with this other sensation of peace that is the absence of pain. I’m not yet sure I want it, even though it sounds intriguing. So for the moment it still feels natural, normal and familiar (if not comfortable) to continue making a huge deal about this issue and hating these people and particularly myself. Maybe one day I’ll see that I can give the whole thing up because I’ll see that this feeling is just not worth it, and this other state, this ‘peace’ thing’, is actually a nice break. But not right now. That’s where I am, and that’s okay.”

As we have been told, Jesus teaches by contrast. By that he means that we can’t move forward and begin to make the right choices until we know that we’re in pain. The great beauty of these outrageously, exquisitely* painful situations is the reminder that they serve us that there is another way. Pain is one way; the absence of pain is the other. But in the absence of pain, there really is no pain, and that’s what we have a hard time with. What, no pain? Nothing?!And by this we don’t mean that there won’t be any physical pain. It’s just that there won’t be any psychological pain attached to the physical pain making it much worse than it is. This is what is meant in the Course by escaping from limitations while not being without them. We don't give the physical condition, or any other circumstance in our lives, a power it does not inherently have, notably the power to remove the Love of our Father from our minds and hearts.

sunrise We escape from all the meaning that our individuality (the ego) might give to such conditions. It was only ever the meaning, the interpretation, which was causing us real pain. Psychological pain is always much more painful than physical pain, as Ken has reminded us at different times. And while assuaging physical pain can sometimes be very difficult, finding greater peace of mind is more easily within our grasp. When our minds are freed to return to their natural state of Oneness, the experience that fills them is one of deep peace and tranquility, no matter what outside conditions the body might be involved in. When the mind is freed from the obligation to feel pain in order to suffer, in order to fulfil some psychological purpose, then we do not feel physical pain as acutely. It is just what it is, and no more. A bodily sensation. Something that touches the surface of the mind, but no more. And the spirit is left light and free to deal with what it needs to do (which might mean, by the way, suing the surgeon, in your case). It can even embrace in its peace those who might be the perpetrators of its suffering. The spirit doesn’t care about such things at that point; it has what it wants – it has its Self, the whole unsuffering Self that is independent of the needs of the body.

This might all sound like a utopian dream, but believe it or not, we’re not actually that far away from it. In fact, we have all had experiences of this state at one time or another when we just didn’t care that much about our physical condition. Better said, we didn’t use our physical condition in order to try to prove something about lives or ourselves. It was just a physical experience, period. And so it didn’t bother us as much. Sometimes this detachment comes easily; other times something in us grabs a situation and runs with it. And that’s really okay. Some situations are much richer in their learning for us than others. A stubbed toe, even one caused by another person, just isn’t going to flip us out like a failed surgical operation.

Over and over, we need to remind ourselves that it’s okay; our learning can take precisely all the time it needs. We will get there eventually – all of us. We will get there all the more peacefully if we just allow ourselves some slack. Time heals all wounds because it allows us to be patient with ourselves, time in which to remember to smile and relax. We are not perfect; only Love is. And that’s quite okay.

(Please make comments here.)



Mayor's Journal, 4th August, 2010
Great thoughts on Inception, everyone! A few more of my own, to take or leave…

Firstly, for those who would like to know what the psychological profession thinks of Inception, Annie has given us this link to a professional society of dream experts: http://asdreams.org/inception. Most of the articles focus on shared dreaming and lucid dreaming, although the first few paragraphs of an article by Robert Hoss look a little more promising for the ACIM student.

sunrise In retrospect, I think I really liked the way the film dealt with projection. Mal (Cotillard) was in Cobb’s mind all the time, and because he felt so guilty about what he thought he had done (killing his wife), she kept on showing up in his dreams as a killer, which was really just his own feelings of being a murderer projected outward. In 'reality', of course, his wife was already dead, so in fact we don't know anything about what she was really like. We were only exposed to his projections of her, which were a real mish-mash of what he thought of himself. (Of course, this is perfectly consistent with ACIM which helps us understand that there are no 'real', independent people we relate to here as such - we only ever meet our own projections, our reactions to other people always coming from our initial decision for the teacher through whose eyes we perceive each person crossing our path.) Perhaps in fact it was Cobb himself who was confused about what was reality vs. dream, and he just made out that it was his wife. He seemed so sure he knew the difference, but after all Mal was just his projection, so her seeming confusion was his actual confusion.

Perhaps he kept hoping that a dream would really become his reality because of his remorse, because of the guilt that was driving him mad. But then he decided to face reality as it was and not take refuge in a dream (which is wonderful right-mindedness), and confront his guilt, personified by Mal and her terrible accusations during that final showdown scene. He gave her back responsibility for her choice, instead of taking it on himself. As Byron Katie might say, "her death was not his business, but hers." Which is great for us because it helps remind us of the extremely difficult lesson that we cannot be responsible for the experience of other people of their lives.

The suffering of other people (our loved ones included, as difficult as this is) is ultimately their choice to remain separated from Comfort, which just reflects their fear of joining with Love. And this is our fear, too. To the extent we can learn to become aware of our hesitation (read: terror) to re-join with that Love, we will be moving our minds back in the right direction. Like Cobb, we can learn to be loving and understanding with others and with ourselves, even as we let other people continue in their delirium of hate, attack and separation. Cobb wanted to re-join with his sanity, with reality; the image of Mal didn't, and wanted to stay with hate. And he let her go, as hard as this was. (Perhaps the script writer could have symbolized this forgiveness differently, for example, Cobb seeing Mal in that final scene softening up and becoming aware that she had made a mistake, understanding that her husband had tried to help her out of love, but it was alright now, she was truly at peace and rejoined with him and her children in another beautiful place. Hmm.)

sunrise sunrise So perhaps a question for us good lil ACIM students: In what ways can we be more like Cobb and remain kind and understanding, even when we watch the news and hear about murderers and dictators and corporate rapists continuing to justify their actions, and to plan yet more destruction? Can we learn to love and respect them, embracing them within our tenderness, patience and understanding, even when they would seek to kill us in order to maintain their balance within their insanity? To them our lives are expendable, as well as those of the people we love. Can we learn to let that be okay, knowing that a terrifying dream of separation would drive anyone crazy? Can we learn to love those who are totally hateful and insane, as if they were our very own beloved partner? Cobb became aware over time that his beloved had become insane, a murderer, and he needed to learn to love her, and release her. After all, these are the people we pass everyday on the sidewalk and on the road and meet behind every cash register. That person we judged today, yes, the one that we considered for a brief instant to be excluded from the Love of our Father and outside the Sonship, he was once our beloved and over time became slowly more and more insane. Can we remember him once more as our beloved Brother who still contains that original spark of light and innocence and sanity?

I think to be honest and to be faithful to my own process I would have to answer all the above questions with a decisive and voluble, "NO!" No, I cannot possibly imagine loving anyone whose sole goal is to continue destroying and killing, me or anyone else. I can't even really imagine the check-out lady at my local supermarket being unconditionally accepted into Love's fold. (If you'd met her, you'd know what I mean.) I mean, how could that be possible? And that's where I am. And that's really fine. It's just nice to know that there are steps along the way back Home, and it's okay if I need to hang out here for a while. I'm insane, what's new? If I were totally sane, I'd know any judgment I hold against another person is purely coming from a judgment/condemnation I hold against myself, and I would quite simply and easily stop.

May I look into the eyes of the killer today and forgive him for his insanity, for it is my own. Let me look lightly and calmly upon the truth, for just beyond lies my perfect sanity, whole and one in an everlasting perfection.

The Love of Jesus waits just beyond the darkness of my judgment, and his light is bright and unwavering. May I be willing to draw a little closer to his Love today, and feel the warmth and wellness he would share with me. Amen.

(Please make comments here.)



Mayor’s Journal, 29th July, 2010
A number of interesting subjects have been coming up lately in the ponderings: the intriguing and provocative film Inception, the wonderful interview with Kenneth at the Monastery, and Ken’s lovely article in the Lighthouse. Some thoughts:

sunrise Inception:
My nighttime dreams are "second level" dreaming according to the Course. A dream within a dream... So lucid dreaming would be knowing that it's not at night that I'm actually sleeping, but during the day, and like the figures in the film, I can become perfectly, lucidly aware of my choices and experiences within the (daytime) dream, knowing that my 'host-mind' is not present here at all but safely tucked away elsewhere far, far away above all the ruckus down here (‘above the battleground’).

With respect to the technological blip in the ponderings (see Annie's 311), I can't explain that weirdness, except to say that it was an 'inception' like moment in which it became apparent that there can be no true unbreakable order to a hallucination. It's like the computer/internet was pointing out that weird things are going to happen because, baby, this is a dream! That seemed to happen to me literally all the time when I was renovating houses. Doing handyman/craftsman work is usually so extremely logical - you do X and Y is the result. Only on so many occasions that rule just didn't apply. The impossible happened just so many, many times that I eventually got the message to stop being surprised.

Did it cross your mind that the Course is not about 'extraction' (taking away our fears and hurts) but 'inception' - putting the idea in our minds that we are asleep and maybe reality is in fact something else, like Cobb's spinning top, showing us 'this can't be the true reality', with the promise that our fears and hurts will eventually disappear because they were never really real? Hmm.

After seeing the film, did you go out and sit at a sidewalk coffee shop looking at all the figures passing by and wonder if they knew they were images in a sleeping mind and that the real mind was somewhere else? Double hmm. Did you think you were a figure in your own dream?

In the film the characters awoke when their dream-figure was killed. This is not the case in our world here. According to the Course, nothing happens when our dream-figures die; they merely slip from one dream of individuality to another, continuing to believe in their separation from reality. We awake only when we learn to have a lucid dream, that is, when we learn to smile and chuckle at all the ways in which we still try to make our dream-figure real (our anger, fear, guilt, judgments, investment in differences, etc.), trying to symbolize for ourselves in three-dimensional Technicolor that the separation with reality is true and not just a product of our imagination or an ‘idle wish’.

Susan Dugan’s Interview with Kenneth (home page at the Monastery)
Some passages that really stood out for me:

“There’s that lovely phrase in the Course about the quiet center. And while the image is not used, it’s implicit in it that if you think of a hub of a wheel there’s that quiet center where you live and the spokes that emanate from it are your various roles: wife, teacher, mother, etc. The spokes are not important. What’s important is that you stay in that quiet center and the love in there infuses everything you do; whether you teach the Course or whether you’re playing with your grandchildren. In a sense it should all be the same and to the extent that you recognize that it’s not the same then you recognize that you still have work to do. That’s where the process comes in.”

“I get asked a lot how can you stand to teach the same thing over and over again. People listen to tapes I made 25 years ago and it’s basically the same thing. And I sometimes make a joke; I can say the same thing over and over again because I don’t listen to myself. But really it’s because it’s always for the first time. So if someone makes a “demand,” the person’s just always talking to me for the first time. Otherwise I couldn’t do what I do. It’s all for the first time.”

“I used to say a lot instead of worrying about which voice you’re hearing and what the voice should tell you why not ask to hear what you should do to remove the blocks so that you can hear the voice better.”

“What is it like to basically be peaceful all the time? Really nice.”

“You know, it’s just a book. Books are harmless; it’s nothing. It’s when you take it seriously that you have a problem. You don’t want to dismiss your ego. You want to respect it but you don’t want to give it a power it doesn’t have.”

sunrise Extracts from the Lighthouse Article:

“Jesus reminds his scribe and all his students, that the purpose of A Course in Miracles is to return attention to the decision-making mind that is the single source of our perceived problems, and the only means of correcting them. This is the role of the miracle, as we have already seen, for it corrects the belief in the reality of magic, including the need for it. It is also the basis for our kindness toward others, enabling us to focus only on our reactions to what we perceive without judging them. The miracle’s kindness leads us to exemplify the Holy Spirit’s judgment: someone expresses love or calls for it (T-12.I.8-10; T-14.X.7:1). Either way, our response would be loving: sharing love with the person, or answering the call for love with love.

Thus, our focus shifts from the various forms of magic to our reactions, and this is nothing less than the shift from judgment to kindness, respecting people’s fear as being their call for the love they do not believe they deserve because they betrayed it.”

And a nice passage that harkens back to the discussion of the film Inception above: “If the idea of separation has never left its source in the mind, through projection, then there can be no world outside the mind that is dreaming it, let alone having an effect on us. And so, how can we be upset by what is not there? Indeed, who would be there to even become upset? There is no world, only the mind’s belief that there is. Once again, the world is only magic, pure and simple: an illusion that is the projection of an illusory thought, delusional thinking that has led to hallucinatory perceptions—a maladaptive solution to a nonexistent problem.”

(Please make comments here.)



Mayor's Journal, 22nd July, 2010
I’ve been taking off time this summer to remember what it’s like to live with no outside pressure. I’m so good at creating artificial, workaholic-style pressure for myself that I have to ‘discipline’ myself to take it easy sometimes. So my ‘leisure diet’ (rather difficult for me, actually) has been about sitting around at cafés, walking the doggy, eating slowly, doing summery things like swimming in the river, etc. I went swimming this morning (this time at a municipal pool) and was thinking as I swam and a funny thought occurred to me.

I had become aware recently that I was never really interacting with other people, the ones I saw parading in front of me at café terraces for example, but with one of two presences within me. Never with any outside, physical presence, but with an inner, abstract one. It was a strange sensation, and I can’t say it was entirely pleasant. It was pretty clear that any time I claimed (to myself) that a particular person made me feel a certain way (or made a certain judgment arise in me), that in fact I was projecting a certain quality on to someone that he/she did not contain. There was a neutral object in front of me (a person), and then something inside made a story up about that object, and subsequently gave that object a power to make me feel a certain way.

sunrise When I was swimming this morning this process became clearer. There were only two of us in the pool since for the first time this summer the weather has turned cold. I’ve been trying to improve my swimming style lately and thought I was doing a bit better. It was a quiet, peaceful experience, and I felt I was there moving in the water purely to spend time with the two different presences within me, choosing the tranquil company of Jesus. Then there was a disturbance in the lane beside me and my eye catches the form of the other swimmer as he ploughs past me as if I’m still in the water. I up my speed a little and for a moment I think I might be matching him, until he makes it clear that he is a much better swimmer and just leaves me behind. Right. Where did that peacefulness just disappear to?

What was pretty amazing is that this guy really wasn’t aware I was there. He didn’t know about my internal competition, the fact that I had begun judging who was the better swimmer. A minute previously there had been no ‘other’ with whom I was in competition and all was well in my world. Then suddenly I make up this story about this speeding form in the lane next to me, and without any rhyme or reason I am now unworthy because I am the lesser ‘athlete’. And I saw clearly that I had made it all up. There was no one really there next to me. There was an object I was attributing qualities to according to the ego’s voice of separate interests, and it was all a transparent, ineffectual drama. For an instant it became a funny, comical show, and I regained my sense of everything being well in the world because nothing could take away that inner presence of comfort and belongingness.

But then an even more disturbing thought occurred to me. If that guy didn’t really exist in any of the ways that my ego claimed (trying to replace me as ‘head swimmer’ in the pool of two), if I was never really relating personally to him as such, if I was never really ‘sensing’ his presence but only ever the presence of my two inner teachers, then that conceivably meant he was doing exactly the same as me. He was never really relating to ‘me’ as such, but to his own two inner teachers. Whatever he felt about our unspoken competition for pool primacy (hehe) was uniquely a function of his choice of teachers, not as a result of anything he might feel about my swimming skills (or lack thereof). He didn’t really exist as such for me; but likewise, and most distressingly, I didn’t really exist as such for him! Now I found a real dilemma in my mind.

On one hand I found this an entirely peaceful concept. I was only ever responding to my inner world and neither this guy nor anything else could take away the peacefulness I had chosen to draw myself closer to. He could not affect me by the way he swam or by any other of the different things he might decide to do. And this was the same for the other chap, too. He was not being affected by the major competition presented to him by this guppy upstart, and no matter what I might try to do, I could not alter the fact that his state of mind was perfectly protected within his choice of teachers. We could not affect each other, and hence we were free to show each other true appreciation, as real brothers. That was a nice thought. But that wasn’t the one I chose.

Instead I chose the one that said, “This is entirely unacceptable! It is completely insufficient that I can have no affect on this bloke, nor on anyone else. That ain’t on! He must realize the imminent threat I pose to him in the battle for nautical supremacy in our village. Otherwise… otherwise… I don’t exist!!”

If I can truly affect no one, if everyone is purely relating to their inner world, despite what they might think they are relating to, then we’re all going around playing this truly creepy, perverse shadow game of who-affects-whom. A look, a glance, a hello, a handshake, eyes meeting furtively then turning away, all these subtle ways another person tries to have an affect on me – and vice-versa. Tries to get me to feel a certain way about him or her. Tries to confirm personal existence, seeking recognition from an outside external object, as if seeking confirmation of existence from within were not an option. Not meaningful. Not meaningful in the same way as getting another person to glance in that approving, validating way.

sunrise Minds are joined. They are joined as one in peace in the right mind. And they communicate to each other in the separated state without speaking, and even without looking. As I sit at the sidewalk café I notice something in common about all the people passing by. They all think someone else is out there! And they do this by having multiple micro-reactions to everyone else that passes them by. To them, there are other real people out there, people they are reacting to. But even more important, they are reassured because they feel that they are a ‘someone’ to whom others are reacting, and this is confirmed by a micro-reaction. The mind picks up on this instantaneously. You know when someone has acknowledged your reality as a human individual. There is a particular look they have which passes unseen through the ethers without them even changing expression. You know that they know that you exist. They have acknowledged your existence. They have seen a fellow human individual.

Let’s be careful that we realize what this actually means. Let’s not be scared to look at this closely (you groan, knowing what’s coming). When someone identifies you as a human being (gives you that unconscious recognizing look), what this recognition communicates is your value to her within her ego delirium. While she believes she is an individual, while she listens to the teacher of individuality, she will feel two needs, and the attention will zap extremely rapidly from one to the other, so fast that the two actually get confused. On one hand she will feel a need to be validated and approved of by the person passing her (special love need), or at the very least recognized as a human individual. You don’t need to smile at her necessarily for her to sense that you recognize her as an individual. You just need to look at her and she will know, as long as you look at her while believing that you, too, are a separated individual, and that this is your reality.

On the other hand, as you pass her by, she will need to find someone responsible for the reason she feels so crummy, tense and insecure all the time (special hate need). No smile of approval passes between you, but the ego is delighted anyway. You exist! You had an affect on someone else, and that is all that is important. A smile, a wink, a scowl, a haughty look, it’s all the same. Special love, or special hate, rape or murder (sorry – had to say it! :-)) – it’s all the same because both make the essential point of validating separate existence and the reality of lack and guilt. You exist! The world of humans exists – it is not just a dream!

Of course you can look at another person in a completely different way. Confirming the ‘reality’ of the dream-world does not have to be your goal. You can look at her knowing that your reality is not that particular individual she is looking at, and that she is not that human form she presents to you, either. In that case something else can be communicated between you. There is space now for something beautiful and warm, something that equalizes you and brings you together in a wonderful remembrance: there is only one of us, and we are loved and whole and perfectly invulnerable within that memory.

I got out of the pool at the same time as my nemesis. Trembling with the anticipation of violent warfare, I pass by to collect my towel and sandals. He glances up and says a kind and unconfrontational ‘Bonjour’. Instantly I put away my total insanity and smile back and return his hello. Not an invested smile, just a relieved, happy smile between brothers. There was no real war there at all.

Have a great day, Village Friends.

(Any comments here.)



Mayoral Shorts:
sunrise Just finishing up The Magic Flute of Forgiveness (Ken CD) and amongst other remarkable things he said, I picked up on an idea that I don't believe I've heard him express quite so clearly. I paraphrase poorly, but here it is:

In our goal to make the unconscious conscious, we unearth the existence of the wrong mind, but also that of the right mind. Whereas we were oblivious to the hate and murder in us previously, we were also unaware of the deep Love of God and the clear voice of the Holy Spirit that are in us, too. We become aware of both of these, and then have the chance to choose which one we prefer to spend time with...

I found this interesting in light of our recent conversations about Ken. Here he is stating unequivocally that we also contain a brilliant right mind that we will learn to choose more and more often. Perhaps he spends a little more time talking about the wrong mind, but he also wishes to reinforce in us that we have a perfect and loving right mind as well. Nice.



Village Bulletin Board, 20th July, 2010
I've included here a short poem by Symeon, a lesser known Christian Mystic poet (949-1022 A.D.), similar to Rumi, I found recently on the internet.

sunrise What is this awesome mystery
that is taking place within me?
I can find no words to express it;
my poor hand is unable to capture it
in describing the praise and glory that belong
to the One who is above all praise,
and who transcends every word...
My intellect sees what has happened,
but it cannot explain it.
It can see, and wishes to explain,
but can find no word that will suffice;
for what it sees is invisible and entirely formless,
simple, completely uncompounded,
unbounded in its awesome greatness.
What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive.
Amen.

Found at StillnessSpeaks.com, a wonderful website on non-duality, filled with interesting stuff. Very meditative just visiting this place.



Village Bulletin Board, 19th July, 2010
I was just over at the Monastery checking out yesterday's FACIM Q&A and I thought it was very interesting in light of the recent conversation about listening to Kenneth. I've copied the relevant parts below. What struck me was how clearly, but how gently, Ken tells us that the only reason that Jesus would have us look honestly within ourselves (and discover the 'muck') is to motivate us along the path. It helps to understand what we're giving up (Love, Heaven) if we know truly what we are accepting in its place (the real, undisguised nature of the ego world/identity). And don't you think that the last part is beautifully said, the part about continuing to live exactly as we are, if we are happy that way? So gentle, so accepting - no constraints, no obligation, no judgments... Just "it's really okay wherever I am."

Q #456: This is a three part question:

i. My understanding of the teachings of A Course in Miracles is that eventually we realize we are all one spirit. Do we then lose our awareness or memory of the experiences we had as individuals? Jesus figured out the truth while here on earth, yet seems to interact with those of us still experiencing the dream of individuality as the individual Jesus. So will the rest of us, after we realize the truth, still retain our individual selves? I realize I am asking this question as someone who likes my “self” and the other selves I interact with, i.e., family and friends.

A: Your awareness of yourself as an individual will last only as long as you value that identity. It is never taken away by Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The focus of our study and practice is learning that our interests are really the same, not separate; and that would lead us to the next step, which is recognizing that not only do we share the same interests, but we share the same self as well. We all share the same ego thought system, and we all share the same right-minded thought system of forgiveness, as well as the power to choose between the two. As long as we are attracted to an identity as an individual self, though, we will resist this teaching rather strenuously. There would have to be some motivation to move beyond individuality, and what Jesus teaches us is that if we looked deeply and honestly at our lives as individual selves, we would conclude that we are paying a heavy price to sustain that existence. That does not mean it is bad or wrong to enjoy existing in this world. He asks only that we look openly at the picture, and not be deceived by the glitter of the frame (T.17.IV.8,9). “The body is a limit on love” (T.18.VIII.1:2). So valuing bodily existence is valuing limited love. That is the connection Jesus wants us to make, just so that we could be aware that we are deliberately (once we remember we are decision-making minds) cutting ourselves off from the totality of the love that comes with the memory of our oneness as God’s Son. Again, liking your self and your family and friends is not wrong or bad; just be aware that this is not all you are or they are. If living in this world is working for you and you are happy and content with it, then it would be foolish to change it. Recall that the Course came to two people who were no longer content with the way things were going and were determined to find a “better way.”

Jesus stands outside the dream of individuality gently helping us to awaken from it. He appears to be an individual relating to us as individuals, but if you consider the above quote about the body being a limit on love, you can begin to understand that he appears that way because we choose to see him that way. Love is abstract — formless — but our perception conforms to our identity. Were we to let go of the need to limit love, we would experience Jesus quite differently — and ourselves as well.

The trouble is, we don’t consciously realize that this is what we are doing, which is why so much of the Course is directed at helping us realize that we have a mind and that practically everything we do is a defense against our realizing that. We don’t want to remember we are decision-making minds, because on some level we know where that realization would take us. We would eventually see clearly what individuality is all about, and it would not be a very pretty picture. To avoid those consequences, we try to make Jesus like us, but that will never square with what he spends so much time teaching us in the Course. It is much more helpful, and would reduce the internal conflict, to state simply and honestly, that you like being a self amidst other individual selves, and that some day you may have a reason to reconsider that choice, but right now you don’t. Period! That’s where you are, and it’s okay. Jesus’ love for you is not lessened in the least.

(Any comments here.)



Mayor's Journal
15th July, 2010

“Knock, knock…”
Silence.
“KNOCK, KNOCK!!”
Okay, okay… (sulkily) “Whoooo’s there?”
“NO ONE!! Hahahahaha!”
Ugh.

Well, actually the truth is that there is no one there. There’s only ever you, and one of two internal teachers. Whenever we hear someone speak, there’s a noise we hear, sounds being emitted. Even a computer can pick the sound up with a microphone and confirm that there is a disturbance to the surrounding silence. But a computer for all of its sophistication cannot tell you what those sounds actually mean. It cannot interpret them, re-phrase them and tell you what they mean. But you can.

sunrise If you come back from a hard day at work, open the door, turn on Hubert (your computer) and say to him, “Boy, do I need a holiday!” Hubert (or Hubie) might respond by researching vacation packages to the Caribbean. Then you tell him, “No, you don’t get it, my boss is just such a pain in the neck.” And Hubie responds by listing the different chiropractors in your area. You: “Damn it, can’t you do something to just fix him and tell him to get a life of his own! He’s always on my back, no matter how hard I work it’s never good enough, and now he’s trying to get his sexy assistant to take my place. I mean, do I have a sexy assistant?” At this news Hubie goes nuts and pulls up dozens of different sites, some quite kosher, others much less so.

You see, without an internal voice of reason, not even the smartest machine can understand a Son of God.

A human being (generally we call them ‘friends’) listening to all your complaints could have had any number of reactions very different from Hubert. Depending on the person, you might have received a suggestion about the need for a break, like Hubert, but with the idea in mind that this would help you come back to work with more patience and tolerance. Or you might have received a word about letting your frustrations out so they don’t accumulate and feed a physical condition. Or you might have been blessed with some advice about how to handle your boss or the interfering assistant.

sunrise Let’s turn the tables: now you’re the advising friend. What did you really understand from what the person was saying about her problem? The only way you can know is by listening inside to your reactions as she was speaking. To you, the sounds had meaning, and though it seems that there are multiple different meanings these sounds might have, in reality there are only two. Either you hear words that remind you of separation, pain and victimization, all seemingly quite dramatic, justifying anger and fear; or they remind you of a mistaken choice for separation, confusion, and forgetfulness of another Presence. Those are the only two messages we can ever hear; those are the only two messages the world is ever communicating to us at any instant of the day or night: separation and suffering, or error and kindness.

Which voice we were listening to as our friend was speaking will show up in our reactions to what she was saying. Tension, agreement, and the memory of similar personal experiences of injustice are usually a pretty good sign that we have preferred the ‘kick’ or ‘high’ that separation gives to our sense of personality, of being ‘me’ with a life and a pretty darn good story behind it to boot. Peacefulness (the real kind, not pretend), closeness to an inner presence that speaks of safety no matter how this person’s situation turns out, and a feeling of worthiness faced with a similar possibility of being replaced, are good indications we have chosen our right mind.

Despite appearances, as she was speaking, we were not really listening to our friend. Not really. Yes, the sounds we were hearing made sense to us, and we knew that this person was having a certain interaction with other people in her work environment. But what that meant to us was determined by the inner voice we listening to, not by the outer voice. The outside voices in our world communicate symbols to us. But only we can interpret what those symbols mean. No one ever imposes meaning on us – that’s impossible. Whatever we understand from our environment is our choice. The way we react as a consequence to what we understand, the way we feel and emote, is always our decision.

There is no one there. Our friend, as much as we would like her to be real, tangible, full of personality, vitality, with all her charming and less charming aspects, in actual fact is not really there (sorry!). We are not really with her, as such. We are either with the ego, or with Jesus. The person before us is just a symbol, another symbol on our journey representing a choice. We are having a relationship not with our friend, but with our two inner teachers. We are either holding the ego’s hand of suffering, or Jesus’ hand of happiness and freedom. Either we will see this Son of God before us as walking and skipping lightly down the path Homeward with us, along with all humanity (making lots of silly and forgivable errors along the way, of course), or we will see her plodding heavily and alone through this quagmire of injustice and pain we call the world, bemoaning our fate at the same time as hers.

sunrise Each and every moment of the day we are either relating to our personal sense of separation from God, or to a sense of closeness with the source of Love, however we internalize that. And depending on the presence we draw close to ourselves, we will respond to our friend’s plight one way or another. We might say exactly the same things – advice about dealing with bosses and assistants, the need for a break, etc. But the way we say it will be completely different, and what the other person may interpret will be just as different. Of course our friend also has a choice to make with respect to her internal teacher, and what she hears will depend on the presence she is drawing close to. But we will know that we are not reinforcing her sense of injustice, vulnerability and unworthiness.

As completely outrageous as it may seem, the only person in front of us is Jesus. Either we forget about him, pick up the hand of separation, and focus on our friend and her plight and feel our own anxiety in a similar situation. Or we suddenly recognize him in the background, breath a sigh of relief, and know that none of this is as important as it looks.

Now, Hubie, back to that google search you were doing about a sexy assistant…

(Any comments here.)



Bernard's Ramblings
15th July, 2010

I am not here,
I never was.
And this kind news
I’d share with you,
In case you think you’re here, too!
There is no place more quiet or calm
Than knowing I’m not this tiny thing
That coughs and wheezes, gasps and groans,
That cries and screams, whimpers and rages.
There is a place where none of this world
Has any merit, value or reality,
Where all is known as One,
Where nothing protrudes beyond the rest,
Where time is nothing,
Since all is embraced
Within a remarkable, abstract Infinity.

So I’d like to say that we do not need
To feel like ‘us’, like ‘you’ and ‘me’.
We do not need to pretend to be
Something other than what We are.
No need to try, to strive or seek,
To wonder if tomorrow will yield
The things I think I need to feel, the love,
The joy that are already within my reach.
I hold out my hand and there within my open palm
Lies all that I have struggled my life to find.
For I’m not here, and God be blessed
That this is so.
For I am there where He has placed me,
By your side, together One,
Together free,
Together blessed,
God's one beloved Son.

Please forgive the astonishingly poor 'poetry'. But it's fun to giggle in this way together sometimes. I won't even ask if people want to comment :-)



Mayor's Journal
14th July, 2010
Following on from some of your ponderings... I didn’t want to make the recent article (below) too long, but more of the conversation I had with the person concerned was about how other teachers and paths are really fine, too. I’ll get to writing an addendum in this Journal.

Beethoven, or Bob?
In the meantime I just wanted to add another word about my work with Ken... I consider that I have two important ACIM teachers: Ken, on one hand, and Bob Marley on the other. Yes, good old Bob. But when he sings he often sounds like UB40 in my prayers. I often feel tension arising in me when working with this philosophy, whether with the blue book or with Ken, and then suddenly Jesus makes a lightening (in both senses of the word) appearance in my thoughts - but he comes to me looking like Bob Marley, and says, “Cool, man. Hey, stay real cool. Chill’s the word. What’re you taking seriously again now? You're taking THAT seriously?? Ah, naw, just give it up man.”

sunriseI am serious. Jesus comes to me looking like Bob Marley slouching on a couch, infinitely wise but V E R Y relaxed. No sin, no guilt, just a huge playful smile that asks, “So you taking something serious… again?” And then I see that Ken is also Bob when I can listen to him without thinking he is pointing an accusing finger at me. Once, like Jamie, I had to head out of the auditorium during a Ken lecture halfway through and just hung out by the lake (Roscoe) for a while. During the lecture I had started to develop a huge tooth ache which I knew was coming purely from the guilt arising in me – “He’s talking about YOU, this is YOUR guilt, and YOUR hatefulness. You see what YOU’RE like?”

I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back in after the break. I bumped into Ken in the bookstore during the break and accosted him. “Great lecture, but you’re honestly scaring the hell out of me.” That’s all I said and he listened, I swear he heard what I was saying. Somehow I felt better, just having told him honestly what was going on, and I didn’t see any, “You’re so stuck in guilt, you don’t even know it.” Of course not. He just smiled and really listened, and then I got it - it really wasn’t about me. It was the ego he was talking about. I was something else. And when he looked at me, he acknowledged the ’something else’ which was happy and free of guilt and blame. Beethoven could play his music once more that I could hear without being immoblized by the guilt coming into view. Guilt could arise, and the mind, instead of confirming its reality, held it gently until its importance dissipated and faded away, dolce and calando...

sunrise I then went back to the lecture but sat in the last row next to the outside door, just in case! I had no problems at all with the lecture and felt great and vibrant the whole time. The tooth ache disappeared that day, but it had to be pulled a year later after many other bouts of taking guilt personally. So it became my ‘guilt tooth’. From that time on I swore I would try to look at ‘my’ guilt and hatefulness and fear honestly, but with much less seriousness, so as to lose fewer body parts!

So now anytime when I listen to a Ken CD and I feel that guilt arising, I do something that reminds me not to take it on myself personally, like get a glass of juice, or a macchiato, smoke a joint (just kidding!!). Or I talk to him and tell him again that he’s scaring the living daylights out of me. I’m honest with him in my mind (and have been in my letters, too). He’s a big guy, he can take it. He’s maybe this incredibly intelligent psychologist-professor on one hand, but he’s a really ordinary, loving, considerate and kind bloke on the other. He’ll say, “Gee, I’m sorry what I’m saying makes you feel bad. Here, let me rub your shoulders a minute. Feel any better? No? Okay, then I’ll schmuzzle your hair a bit – that always works.” He really would, I’m not kidding. And that’s what I see him doing whenever I get my knickers in a knot.

Beethoven, or Bob - it's not one or the other. It's both. One takes me to the heights, the other reminds me to smile and laugh all along the way Home.

So let's all get up, stand up, let's do a little jammin' and sing redemption's song together, we'll not be waiting in vain but keep on moving; even if we stir up the guilt from time to time, even if we ask, "Could we be loved?", even when we think there is no sympathy, we'll know that the sun is shining, guilt won't rock our boat too long, something's there that will satisfy our soul, and we'll learn the wonderful lesson, "No guilt, no cry," and when we finally ask in honesty "Is this Love?", Jesus/Bob will answer tenderly, yes, this is One Love we all share...

Blessings, my friends! Have some fun today!
Bernard

PS How many Bob songs are mentioned in this post?

(Any comments here.)



Mayor's Journal
12th July, 2010
Over the past few days I have been having an interesting exchange of emails with a Village-participant on a subject I thought might interest some other residents. The basic issue was a deep concern about feeling belittled and guilty when working through Ken’s teachings, and whether it was not possible to do the work, perhaps with other teachers, who do not focus so much on the ego’s darkness. Jesus states in his Course that it is not the only path back to the real world; perhaps other paths will be a little easier on the feelings, and not focus quite so much on bringing out the guilt, the ugliness, the bloodthirstiness, the horror and fear which can become preoccupying and immobilizing. After all, why does Ken focus so much on these dark aspects along the path Home?

BG: Let me talk a little firstly about my own experiences with Ken. I do understand your feelings! For me, the fact that Ken can even talk about all the gruesome aspects of the ego as he does is kind of proof that he doesn't feel guilt with respect to it! I even wonder how on earth he can pronounce the words he does - they can also bring up a great deal of fear and guilt in me at times. So the fact that he can talk about it the way he does makes me think that he has processed all those feelings and that they no longer have any effect on him. This, to my mind, is proof that it is possible to work through these horror stories and come out feeling peaceful (and alive!). So I conclude that if someone else is able to do it peacefully, then it must not be a problem literally with what he is saying, i.e. with what the ego actually does and its intentions and makeup. It must be a problem with my hearing.

I've come to the conclusion time and time again that Ken’s words don't actually contain any magical power over me to bring up guilt and fear. After all, they are just sounds and symbols. It's the way my mind is interpreting and processing the words he speaks that can unsettle me. And why would they do that? Why would I take all these horror stories so seriously? I keep coming back to the answer: obviously because I think they're true. I still see the horror, the betrayal, the guilt, the rampaging God-Father, the bloody Christ on the Cross, the destruction of Heaven, my treason as a Son of a holy, loving Father - I still feel all that as if it is true and continuing every moment.

Okay, this is actually not too difficult to see for anyone who has worked with Ken for a while. What is really difficult is finding the understanding within oneself that none of this is true, just a story the ego is telling, etc., which is precisely the point to which he would lead us. Why, oh, why should it be so difficult to really internalize that this is all simply the ego's lie? If only I could see this, then I’m sure I could listen to Ken for hours and not have a single, teeny problem. Now this question really starts to cut to the heart of the story, and to the really difficult part of the work.

The reason that we cannot get to this sense of it all being 'just an ego lie' is because we don’t want to. We still give importance and value to our individuality, and we want to continue doing this. I don’t want all this horror, this hatefulness and guilt, to be just a story and just a lie. Simply because I don’t want to be just a ‘story’ and a ‘lie’. The place to which Ken is trying to lead us from which we see clearly the lie is also the place in which our individuality diminishes to complete unimportance, and our oneness and sameness with our brothers comes to the forefront in our awareness.

Ken would have us come to that right-minded place and look on the ego’s devastation and say, “this is really not interesting, and certainly not any kind of big deal”. Yet my individuality, my sense of ‘me’, is part of that devastation. Thus reaching that vision point is tantamount to saying, “I’m really not that interesting, I’m really not any kind of a big deal.” Now, if I try to do as he asks, and yet I still feel a strong desire to continue with the ego's games, to continue to give importance to my story, then I will not be able to escape feeling an inner conflict. This is the specific source of the pain we can feel when listening to Ken. It is the conflict of becoming aware of what we are doing by participating in the ego’s thought system, and becoming aware that we are doing so voluntarily, and still wish to do so.

In some ways it is even worse than if we hadn't started with this course! I feel doubly guilty now because I'm aware of what I'm doing - and am now aware that I still actually want to continue doing it! This is why it feels awful at times when Ken takes away the veils: we’re trying to convince ourselves of something that a part of us (our wrong mind) still really does not want to do. And now that we know about our reluctance, we feel even guiltier. I know I should want to stop playing the horrible, bloodthirsty, cannibalistic games Ken talks about. But in actual fact, something in me still secretly adores playing them. And the guilt about knowing all this serves my ego’s game even better – it keeps everything more firmly in place! This is why it is possible to feel worse when we study the Course, rather than reap the rewards of peace and innocence Jesus speaks of so often.

As Ken has told us many times, these feelings are helpful information. They are helping us understand that we have a split mind. Whereas we were unaware initially we had a decision-making mind, now we discover we have one. Then we get to experience quite clearly that this mind is indeed split between the wrong mind (which seeks to maintain our individuality and differences) and our right mind (which would seek to remember the reality of love and sameness). In order to truly discover this and to feel the beginnings of peace, we need only look over in the direction of a helpful Friend who stands next to us and ask for his help.

If we turn to Jesus, that part of our right mind that is filled with clarity and the remembrance of oneness, then we will understand that there is no cost to releasing our tight hold on our sense of individuality. It’s okay to be the same as others. It’s okay to be filled with hatefulness on one hand, as everyone, because we see clearly that on the other hand we are filled with innocence and the gentle happiness of our Father. We do not need to feel special, especially better or worse than another, not when we experience the peacefulness of sameness. What a relief, what a wonderful relief to realize that we can cease striving to make something of our lives, and just relax and be content to be the same. As equally wrong-minded and confused as others, and as equally right-minded and sincerely generous and forgiving as others can be, too.

To address your specific concern, I literally can't imagine a student of Ken's who has not experienced these challenging feelings. Ken is always pushing us, gently and hard at the same time. You don't listen to Ken if you want a comfortable ride through life! Ken's work is for those who are tired of feeling guilty and fearful and want to get rid of all their feelings of guilt and fear – not just cover them over with other thoughts. The temptation is to think there is another way of going about doing this other than identifying our separating feelings and thoughts and forgiving (releasing) them.

I don't think there is another way of doing it, not really. There is a magical place within us that we are all intuitively attracted towards, and are scared of at the same time. A magical place of clarity, wisdom and real peace. Ken is trying to en-courage us (to give us the courage) to go back to that place time and time again from where we can look on what we think is devastation and see (in Jesus' words) that it is “not so”. “The miracle shows us that we are dreaming and dream and that it's content is not true.”

Ken has said that we must learn to look at our lives within this world to find the blood spilling out (e.g. our cannibalistic intentions to get something from others such as a smile; our frustration with someone which is a mild form of murder, etc.), not in order to feel guilty or fearful about it, but in order to see that it is not real blood – it’s just ketchup, just actor's fake blood. It’s all the ego’s make-believe (literally ‘making real from pure belief’).

We look at all this clearly in order to see that these hateful, murderous intentions are just silly – not sinful and not bad, just silly. They are silly because once we are in our peaceful and satisfied right minds we see how remarkable it is to believe we could actually want to get something from someone else. In that calm place, we need nothing from anyone else, not even a smile. And we certainly can’t imagine getting upset because we didn’t receive one, or because someone did not behave according to our set of rules. We can’t imagine getting upset at all, in fact, because there is nothing that shakes our peace once back in that special place. All the previously disturbing thoughts of hatefulness are just seen as amusing and peculiar, certainly not as guilt-provoking.

Ken wants us to take his words seriously, and he knows there is a good chance we will feel uncomfortable faced with the startling truths he presents to us. It is these feelings that will motivate us to want to do something about the disguised contents of our minds. He has told us that the motivation for doing this Course is the awareness of feeling unhappy, in addition to the obvious “attraction of Love for Love”. But if we only remained with the lovely and loving passages, we would never get to the obstacles that are preventing us from embracing that Love. The blocks would stay in place, and we would practice for years and years and wonder why things did not shift significantly. Despite your perceptions, I really don’t think Ken is trying as such to shock us. He is not trying to make us feel guilty, but to show us that we do feel guilty, and that it is only when we recognize this that we can really do something about it. He is in many ways like the last-resort doctor.

Ken is the doctor we go to when the wound is hurting badly and no other doctor has been willing or able to do what's necessary to heal it. You’ve seen many specialists and followed many courses of healing, yet the pain remains. When someone rips off the bandage you've put on an old and poorly tended sore, it reveals the festering wound, but only so it can be cleaned and healed. You know it's going to be tough – Ken is going to be direct, but then that’s precisely what you haven’t found elsewhere. No one else has been willing to tackle the really difficult work at hand – the secret, disguised obstacles we have been cherishing in a hidden closet of our minds, the secret desire for the wound to remain infected. Not even we have been aware of what has been there. Ken, as our doctor, will give us rose-water and heart-shaped candies, but he is also going to open that darn wound to clean it. You go to Ken with a festering wound that is very painful, and say, “Can you please, please help me? I’ve tried so many other paths and techniques and they’re just not making any real headway with my hurts and wounds. No matter what I’ve done, they’re still there.”

Then he says, “Okay, but this might hurt initially,” – and he does warn us!. “I'm not going to hurt you - the pain is already there but you’ve covered it over. We have to expose the wound to heal it properly. We'll have to take off all the old bandages that you've put on that are now getting in the way of cleaning it up. They’ve served you well in the past, but now if you want to really heal this wound, we’ll have to take them of and see what’s really festering there.” Then while the taking off of the old bandage is under way, our friendly doctor leans over and tickles us in the ribs and says, “Look over there!” And you look in the direction of his pointing finger and there's this lovely face of a kind and caring brother looking at you with these big lovely eyes and a huge smile, saying, “Just keep looking in my laughing eyes and everything will be absolutely fine! You won’t feel a thing.”

Were it not for this friendly last-resort Doctor, we might just prefer to lead life as insanely and as unhappily as we have been for countless years without seriously questioning what's going on.

Happy healing!!

Have a great week, everyone,
Bernard

(Any comments here.)



Bernard's Ramblings
Saturday, July 7th, 2010
Stories of Jess
The door swung slowly shut and Lorna looked up from the kitchen counter to see which of her three children was coming in. It was high summer and in Maine the sun set only late, and the kids knew it was okay to play in the big garden till almost bedtime. Through the large window above the counter she could see Sharon and Peter playing ping-pong on the all-weather table. Peering around the edge of the window frame, she could see into the back of the yard, all the way down to the row of tall sunflowers, their enormous gay heads swaying slightly in the light wind. But her middle child, Jess, wasn’t there.

She turned and made her way into the living room, empty and still except for the light window drapes fluttering gently in the breeze, and the large tabby, Rufus, fluffing the sofa cushion. Her husband, Dave, was out running errands, the T.V. was off. Perhaps it was just the wind that closed the door, after all. She swung in the direction of the hallway and the stairwell, and her eyes lit just for an instant on the heavy book lying on the Davenport’s side table. The blue book was open at the last lesson she was working on, and she took a moment to re-read the first few words:

Lesson 168: Your grace is given me. I claim it now.
God speaks to us. Shall we not speak to Him? He is not distant. He makes no attempt to hide from us. We try to hide from Him and suffer from deception. He remains entirely accessible. He loves His Son. There is no certainly but this, yet this suffices. He will love His Son forever. When his mind remains asleep, He loves him still. And when his mind awakes, He loves him with a never-changing Love … He comes Himself, and takes us in His Arms and sweeps away the cobwebs of our sleep.

She sighed lightly and peacefully.

Where is that boy? she asked to the empty room. It was a quick stop to Jess’ bedroom where she was sure she wouldn’t find him anyway. It just wasn’t in his nature to turn in before it was absolutely necessary. She pushed open the half-ajar door and wasn’t surprised to see his bed vacant. Then just as she was about to head back out of the room she heard a sound from over on the left. A cough, or funny snuffle? With no one in apparent sight, she approached the floor to ceiling closet doors, and listened. Again, the same strange sound. Opening the doors, her eleven year old boy came into focus, sitting crouched against the inside of the small, confined space. And he had been crying.

Startled by this strange behavior, she knelt down beside him and automatically put a hand to his forehead. He wasn’t ill. Her hand slid over the top of his head, caressing his hair, and then down to his slight shoulders. “Hey, my big little man, what’s going on?” she asked warmly, but not too worried. It couldn’t be anything too serious, she figured.

Jess looked up and frowned slightly, but said nothing.

“You know it’s really okay. Why don’t you come out here and tell me what’s going on?”

Without saying a word, the slim, fair-headed boy slid out of the closet and sat on the edge of the bed. His eyes searched the wall and its collection of bright posters before coming to settle on a vague spot on the floor before him.

Lorna just sat on the bed next to him, knowing it was better to say nothing for the moment, and just held her arm around his shoulder.

After a moment he looked up at her and spoke. “I did something really wrong this afternoon. But you don’t know about it.”

She couldn’t imagine what he could have done that could have been so bad, especially if she hadn’t noticed any traces of his misbehavior all day. “Would you like to tell me about it?”

He huffed, a short breath to give him courage, and launched into an explanation of his misdemeanour. He knew he always felt better when he was honest with his mom, and she rarely if ever punished him. It was going to be okay. “While you were all busy doing stuff, I went into the dining room. I went to the sideboard and got out a set of cutlery, you know, the silver forks and things you use for special occasions…”

At this moment Lorna couldn’t imagine what he might have done that could have been a crime. All the silverware was in place; she had been to the drawer later that evening to put some things away and nothing was missing.

Jess continued in a soft voice, “I took a full set of stuff and went to the table. But I didn’t go to my place… I went and sat at Dad’s. At the head of the table…”

More silence.

Then, “I set up the cutlery in front of me, I pulled out his chair and sat down in his spot. There was no one there, but I imagined all the family, you all plus granddad and grandma and aunt Jackie, Mrs. Simone and the Whistons even. And I pretended like I was the boss and in charge of the whole dinner… I could tell everyone what they should do and shouldn’t, and everyone did what I told them to do because they were like scared of me, because I was the head of the family.”

Lorna was still waiting for the big misdemeanour. “Yes, and then what happened?”

Jess looked at her strangely. “Well, that’s it!”

Lorna looked back uncomprehendingly. Her eyes sought more information and after a moment Jess replied.

“That’s it, that’s what I did, I took Dad’s place! I mean, I didn’t really,” he added hurriedly. “It was just for a moment, really probably like five minutes. But I’m sorry, I’ll really never do it again. After a moment it felt really weird and so I quickly put everything back in its place and ran outside. I don’t really want to be dad, I think I prefer being me.”

Lorna heaved a sigh of relief inwardly. This was her boy’s big problem? He thought he had taken his father’s place, and this scared him? Before long her face was beaming and she ruffled his hair, looking him hard in the eye. “My worthy young man, you need never be concerned about thinking you have taken your father’s place, believe me. He loves you, more than you can imagine. And even if he knew about this, and we don’t need to tell him if you don’t want – that way he’ll never even know – he would only say exactly the same as me. There’s really no problem at all. Okay?”

Jess always felt better when his mom talked to him like this. It just seemed to always go to the heart of his problem. He thought about what he had done, then about what she had said. “I think I prefer being Dad’s son," he said. "That’s okay with me. I don’t need to be him.”

Lorna smiled, thinking back upon the lesson she had spoken to herself earlier. “Mmm, yes I can fully understand. Very wise words, my young sage. Very wise words.”

She rubbed his shoulders vigorously till he stood up and the energy came back into his eyes. “Hey,” she said, looking at her watch, “Do you think it’s too late for a treat? How about… hmm… a root beer float?”

Jess’ eyes opened wide and he nodded enthusiastically. She held out his hand, he plunged his hand in hers, and they made their way out of the room and back down the stairs to the kitchen.

(Any comments here.)



Mayor’s Journal
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

One of our Villagers yesterday gave us all a remarkable insight into the nature of healing, and I wanted to share it with you. Faced with the possibility of another incidence of cancer, she recounted her experience leading up to the visit to the doctor to receive the results of the biopsy. In her words:

sunrise “The weird thing is that for the last three days I’ve been so fearful at points I felt like I might throw-up. I kept releasing and looking then I would feel very calm then back to the fear. Pray for my mind to be healed sitting with the fear and not running/stuffing it as best I could. Even in the waiting room, fear, and up to the point he said I’m sorry but it is more cancer. Then all the fear went poof and we talked about the surgery and everything and still no fear. I even started smiling at points and he looked at me a bit askew at one point cause for me now we could just as well of been making plans to order cake and ice cream for a party. My mom might have been looking askew also but she was behind me so I’m not sure what she was doing. I feel O.K. even… dare I say… happy. For the moment I feel no fear. This is amazing.”

What I found most helpful in what our friend has said here is the switch that can come instantaneously when all of a sudden the fear of a potentially disastrous situation disappears and is left with a simple feeling of lightness, one that in her words resembles in every respect ‘happiness’. It brings more meaning to the idea (often quoted by Ken, borrowed from Winston Churchill) that “All we have to fear is fear itself.” We’ve also perhaps heard that the “anticipation is worse than the reality.” A disaster is, after all, just another situation without any inherent charge or emotion. What we end up feeling is a function of something going on in the mind, not in the world. Our catastrophes are just another series of pictures, another situation to deal with, one that we can interpret in two different ways, depending on the inner teacher we choose.

sunrise I think Ruth-Anne taught us something about this choice of teachers recently. When her perception shifted recently it was accompanied by the magical and profound words (in their original vernacular): “You gotta be kidding me! I just don’t buy it.” And what’s she not “buying” exactly? Well, I think it’s the ego’s interpretation of whatever was going on that there was a good and logical reason to feel fear, upset, hatred and injustice. Taking the words right out of Nancy Reagan’s mouth, our two Villagers just said, “No!” – No, I just don’t want to share that perception and those feelings anymore. “Too tired, too fed up to keep on doing that trip. No way, Senor Jose.” Well done, guys. And thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Yes, of course, as we’ve all been learning for so long, there is another way of looking at every situation, even the most seemingly dire dramas. Lesson after lesson teaches us this: "I am never upset for the reason I think… I can see peace instead of this…I am not a victim of the world I see…God’s Will for me is perfect happiness…All things are echoes of the Voice for God…I am in danger nowhere in the world." Love is the constant that holds our reality as one Self together, the word on our Brother’s breath as he whispers to us in every situation, “Be with me, and all shall be well. We shall walk through this together.”

sunrise There is an elaborate myth being told in the pictures and scenes of the world, a drama being played out that we are invited to participate in by all our friends, family and colleagues, our doctors and teachers, our politicians and professors. A myth of danger and sacrifice and injustice. Of certain suffering, of grimaces and gnashing teeth, of hot tears and searching eyes. It draws us like a vortex, sucking us into its spiral of logic and argumentation, of proof beyond words and scientific tests all leading to one conclusion: suffering and pain are real. What they fail to add, but that stands neon-brilliant in unspoken letters, is that this pain is somehow justified. It’s not only real (they say); it’s also our merit, our ‘just desserts’. And that’s why it feels inevitable. Not because it is historically proven to be unavoidable, but because something inside us tells us that we will never escape the harshness and punishment of this world because it is our due.

We’ve all been studying Ken long enough to know where this unspoken expectation of misfortune comes from, but it always helps to remind ourselves: it is the guilt we accepted as part of our separation negotiation with the ego – the inevitable price we pay for believing we sacrificed God and Heaven in order to establish our own miniature shadowy kingdoms. The desire for separation entails the belief that we achieved it at the expense of Love, and this supposed act of barbarity against eternal Gentleness leads to the internal programming of self-punishment. Misery is not only inevitable, this philosophy declares. Much, much more than this, misery is critical in order to prove that separation has been accomplished. Without the personal experience of suffering (and ultimately death), we cannot prove that individuality is true. The world speaks volumes about this programming, and more than six billion people accept every word as gospel truth.

sunrise Yet despite the tomes of law books filled with stories of injustice, despite the headlines screaming abuse and victimization, despite five thousand years of human history demonstrating the propensity of man to create his own hell, suffering remains what it always will be: a choice. Nothing can make suffering more than what it is, a simple choice, an inner experience that each individual fragment of the one Son accepts in the confines of his mind. Accepts, of course, or rejects.

We can, in the same spirit as our friendly Villagers, say, “This is now enough. I don’t want to go this way anymore. I’m tired of playing the same old game. There is another game, a happy one, led by an older, wiser Brother whose lovely smile wipes away all my desire to want to continue suffering the way I have been for so long. I just don’t need to anymore. Yes, let’s play a different game…”

sunrise And since Jesus reminds us so often in His course that we are indeed children, we can with the same lightness and simplicity of young children decide to play another game. Dealing with cancer or bankruptcy, coming to terms with a failing relationship or with ruthless colleagues, standing up to powerful authority figures: we can undertake all our actions with a lightness of spirit and an inner laughter. Someone is there within our minds holding our hand. His company is real, much more so than the heavy meanings and implications of our worldly situations. We can become inner-referencing instead of outer-referencing. Nothing can stop us from saying to ourselves, “I don’t share that meaning anymore.”

Let’s do it!

Have a great week, dear friends,
Love and hugs,
Bernard

(Any comments here.)

PS A huge sunflower in a terracotta pot is being given as a gift to every Villager who stops by the Tavern this summery (northern) evening and partakes of a glass of sparkling grape juice.

(Any comments here)



Village Inspiration Corner

sunriseThe Forgiven World
Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you? In no fantasy have you ever seen anything so lovely. Nothing you see here, sleeping or waking, comes near to such loveliness. And nothing will you value like unto this, nor hold so dear. Nothing that you remember that made your heart sing with joy has ever brought you even a little part of the happiness this sight will bring you. For you will see the Son of God. You will behold the beauty the Holy Spirit loves to look upon, and which he thanks the Father for. He was created to see this for you, until you learned to see if for yourself. And all His teaching leads to seeing it and giving thanks with Him.

This lovelness is not a fantasy. It is the real world; bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun. Nothing is hidden here, for everything has been forgiven and there are no fantasies to hide the truth. The bridge between that world and this is so little and se easy to cross, that you could not believe is is the meeting place of worlds so different. Yet this little bridge is the strongest thing that touches on this world at all. This little step, so small it has escaped your notice, is a stride through time into eternity, beyond all ugliness into beauty that will enchant you, and will never cease to cause you wonderment at its perfection. (T.17.II.1-2)




Mayor's Journal
June 23rd, 2010

Hello, Family! How are you all?

To continue my rambling journal, as I mentioned recently, I received a lovely letter from my ex-wife recently, a letter of healing and closure. Pat and I were having dinner in a restaurant just the day after and we were chatting about that time. I had met Pat some 15 months after my separation with my wife, and my insides were still quite raw at the time, and the memories very fresh, so she lived through part of that crazy period of my life. Some of the things that came back to me from the last difficult few years of my life with my ex-wife I hadn’t shared with Patricia.

sunrise As I sat there bringing up this or that detail or event (over pizza and salmon), I could feel my insides start to do the same old dance, you know, the ‘victim dance’. If you’re not familiar with it (hmm), it goes something like this: The details of ‘what was done to you’ get dramatically illustrated by noticeable rises in the voice, by eyebrow raises and punctuated breathing. The energy shifts, getting more agitated, and a goal comes into view – to prove a point about your (usually painful) experience of a certain happening. Sitting there at dinner, I fell into the trap. And then we both noticed it – the old game had returned, and we both smiled. I shook my head and started to laugh. How easy it is to fall back into wanting ancient hurts to be real! It’s not that they are real, but that something inside wants them to be real. And if I didn’t want them to have power, then they didn’t. It was a pretty simple choice, actually, on that occasion at dinner to let it all go. But other occasions make the goal of proving a certain experience more difficult to shake off.

The last few months have been a bit challenging in that way. As some of you know, I stopped my traditional manual trade in February, something I had longed to do for ages. Nothing was clear about what was supposed to happen next, but at least I thought it was pretty obvious that I had to stop in order to find out what the next step might be. Now, you have to know that since my divorce I have been building in one form or another in order to keep my sanity intact. Getting into a serious physical activity like house renovating actually saved me and helped me transform a pretty messed up mind into one that was at least a little calmer and less prone to intense dwelling on hurts and pains. There was no question, building was good for me. You just had to forget your issues if you wanted to do a good job. It required all my concentration in a very non-mental activity, and in addition the body movement meant there was little nervous energy for getting overly agitated and worked up.

sunrise The separation had been excessively difficult for me (for her, too) as I was very co-dependent and terrified of hurting my ex-wife. I knew for the sake of my sanity I had to leave, but it was not an easy decision. I left on December 24th; it seemed that the preparations for Christmas that year just tipped the scales too far and I knew if I didn’t get a break, something disastrous would happen. I left the door open as I said goodbye, unable to bear the thought of closing it shut. I walked down the path from our house in the woods to the village, a twenty-minute walk during a cool winter’s night (we only had one car that I was not about to deprive her of). I think I had in my hands just a sleeping bag and a heavy but useful book (a big blue one) that you might be familiar with. I mention this only because that book became my lifeline during a critical transition time of my life. I had been studying it already for some ten years, but knew there was still a commitment I had not been making to my inner Teacher. I was to spend my time over the next few years joining with him progressively more and more, a relationship that would eventually give birth to the writing of Paulo and the Magician.

And so the period from 1999 to 2001 had me cycling through phases of intense fear, depression and self-condemnation (for inflicting so much pain on another person, and making such a mess of my life), and then onward to deep peace, comfort and complete freedom from any implications of harm or damage (hers or mine). It was a crazy time, and I needed something, anything, to ground me. And that was where the heavy building activity came in so tremendously useful. As I went through the motions of finishing my houses, or laying foundations, or hanging some plasterboard, I always wondered what would happen if I ever stopped. It was pretty obvious that the physical work had become a crutch, a way of keeping my mind totally focused on a non-mental activity, since I had a tendency to get too intense about my inner work. One predictable side effect had been that building had become my favorite way of suffering, even though I recognized its therapeutic value.

I have thought for some time that the ego needs to suffer (it is always through suffering that it gives itself a semblance of existence), and that it always chooses one or more of four domains for doing so. These are relationships, finances, work, or health. Even when all is seemingly well in these four domains, as does happen for some people, if you really look it is usually difficult to say that such and such person is completely at peace with all these areas, and feeling in harmony with self and God and his place in the (non-material) universe. And so my specially chosen and selected way of suffering and giving reality to my individuality had become my activity, my work. This was a challenging Catch 22.

sunrise If I continued my current work, then I could be guaranteed a certain level of stability and ‘sanity’, but would never make the next step since this work was disguising a number of unresolved issues. But if I stopped, the risk is that I would become intensively involved in matters of the mind and become potentially depressive and basically unpredictable. While I built, my projections were predictable: I was always going to have a problem with this client or this job or that partner, or the weather, etc. If I stopped, where would my projections land before I managed to stop them altogether? On Pat? On my money situation? On my health? As it so happens, it seems the ego has decided to share the fun around, and project onto all four domains in a characteristically random and insane fashion.

And so I return to my point for this little rambling: some situations present more of a difficulty for shaking off the attraction to suffering than others. I’m reminded of a section in ACIM, the attraction of guilt, and I’ve been trying to work with that for a few days. I can get a sense, a glimpse, at moments of this truly comical attachment I have to feeling bad (the background dis-ease of being unjoined with my Creator), even though no true, identifiable reason exists for feeling this way. All I can say is that it is my continuing way of feeling like ‘me’.

If the suffering stopped entirely, if I made that wonderful backdrop of peacefulness and harmony that is unrelated to the circumstances of my life, if I made this my current state of mind now and for always, then where would ‘Bernard’ fit in? Well, he wouldn’t. He ain’t there. We can have either an experience of personal, individual suffering, even if that is just a stubbed toe that we insist feels bad, or we can have a serene experience of letting all this go and welcoming a lightness and happiness completely unrelated to all that is happening, but a happiness that is not personal but completely free of definition or constraints. A happiness and lightness that is just One, with Jesus, with everyone. With everything. No definitions, no separations or differences, no seeking to understand the reason for this or that in order to feel better, no trying to work things out. Just a final freedom from needing to understand or define things. Light, luminous, and free of weight.

sunrise This is my current dilemma. A choice between a very personal and specific unhappiness, or an impersonal, numinous and abstract Happiness. I could say to all the things in my world and life, “I do not need you to define how I might feel. I can feel perfectly free of the judgments and condemnations that circulate in this crazy place (my mind). There is another world in which none of this matters or makes a difference, in the most positive sense. I do not need to understand the next step to feel secure. I do not need to have this current situation work out perfectly in order to feel light and free.” I look at the willingness necessary to make this declaration, and I find something that seriously hesitates. What gives? Why would on earth would I hesitate? And the answer is crystal, pristinely clear.

I don’t want to give up the sense of me. I know it’s totally crazy, but that’s where I am.

Anyone care for a cup of tea? Everyone over to the tavern, tea and fresh muffins on me.

(Any comments here)



Mayor's Note:
18th June, 2010
Hmm. Not much inspiration these days. Just going through the motions of what appears as 'life' before my eyes every day. Lots of wet weather over here in France. Reminds me of Mr. Salvatori in Paulo, every day saying the same thing, "It's a bet damp, isn't it?" It still looks like every day I get up and determine how I feel by a host of different things in my body's environment: the weather, my sleep, the news, the quality of the coffee, the first smiles (or grimaces) of the day... And as soon as I switch gears and search for a statement that comes from deep within, another, holier place, I feel instantly better. Peaceful. As if it really is not going to matter what happens that day. It's just okay.

sunrise Some personal news: Pumpkin is scared of a big black cat who's become the feline mafia honcho in our woods. We think he even stole into the house and pee-ed everywhere - there was a terrible cat smell in the house when we arrived back last night. That's not our little Pumpkin! Strange. Also, and most importantly, I received perhaps the most beautiful letter of my life yesterday. My ex-wife and I were divorced 10 years ago and have seen each other very little since, even though we live in the same village.

The separation had been very difficult for both of us. I wasn't aware, but during the past decade she has undergone a whole inner program of looking and healing, and yesterday she presented me with a letter in closure for the pain we had both endured. It was beautifully written, right from the heart, and helped pull together lots of loose ends, giving us some real common ground now for communicating. All the tension was gone, there were no more victims, and no trying to 'understand' things, either. And she also presented me - a huge surprise - with a book she had written. I had no idea! An even greater surprise, it was on her personal healing using ACIM in conjunction with psychosynthesis (I can't tell you anything about what this is). I had introduced her to ACIM years and years ago, but had no idea she had continued with it. If you're interested, you can look it up on Amazon, her pen name is Olivia de Gage, and the book is called L'Amour Déraisonné (it's written in English).

I really enjoyed receiving the letter, but what I felt even more peaceful about was that I knew she didn't need to write it. In some ways it's the kind of perfect letter we would all like to receive from a loved one, from a parent, a son or daughter, or a spouse, about forgiveness, respect, recognition. Now that it was there in my hands, I felt that my love and appreciation for this person were not different. They had always been there, even during the hard times. I think I had gone through an important transition recently that really helped this feeling be born within me.

I had pretty much always kept my 'difficult divorce' in my baggage of horror stories to pull out at the right moment. You know, like when you're with friends and the conversation turns to victim stories. Over time I had stopped bringing up this dramatic event in public, but it always remained in my inner library, my 'record of grievances' (Ken's two books). It seemed that something inside defended 'my right' to catalog this experience as a truly painful episode. As if keeping this story was a way of validating something (disastrous) about my life. Then only a month or so ago (which interestingly enough corresponded roughly with the date on her letter), I decided to wipe the slate clean.

There was no 'real' pain. There was pain, but only because I continued to insist on it; in reality, it was all over long, long ago. There was no need to relive it, neither publicly but more importantly in my inner records, as a time of anger and upset. I just didn't want to keep these records anymore, or perhaps I just felt I didn't need them anymore. At that moment, it seemed to me that I grew up just a little more. At least, that's what it felt like. I wanted to attach myself to something more important than my life experiences. There was something more important, and much more beautiful than any personal, human experience I could have. Something mystical, divine and simply - peaceful.

Every day now I try to wake up and remember that decision. So when it's damp and wet, when the first coffee of the day isn't so good, when the first looks of the day are grimaces instead of smiles, when my work situation looks even more chaotic than normal, when I'm late for an appointment and 'it's not my fault', I bring myself back to this daily dedication: I'm not looking for personal, human experiences anymore of 'things going right, things looking good', I'm not looking for an end to my abuse and victim story - that's not interesting. The world will do what it will do, continuing on its crazy course. But I can feel something different inside now. There is a light, a warm inner flame that chases away even the dampest weather, and a cool inner breeze that calms the heat of any disagreement. It's not about the outside, but the inside. And there, it can be calm all the time. The Love is there. If I reach out my hand, I can bring it a little closer, every day.

Blessings to everyone today, Bernard.

P.S. I'm out of town till Sunday.

(Any comments here)



Village Hall Bulletin: The recently held festivities for brother Lawrence have been moved to the Mayor's Journal blog. Please find them here)



Mayor's Note: Freshly posted at the Monastery, copious notes from Ken's current workshop, "I Need Do Nothing". Also, a youtube video of Bonnie playing an extraordinary violin duet, a masterfully executed work of modern composition. Wonderful! Many thanks, Jamie.



Mayor's Journal
June 15th, 2010
For the second time a Villager has kindly shared her experience with us about a man whose socially difficult behavior on a public bus challenges her perceptions of kindness and forgiveness (and those of the other passengers, too). In putting in my 'two cents worth' in the ponderings, the following ideas arose, and I then thought to post them as an entry in the Journal because of their universal nature. This is not about the Villager concerned - it is about all of us and our perceptions of others based on our desire to confirm our sense of individuality, using thoughts of upset and fear...

sunriseDear Villager, thanks for keeping us up-to-date on this continuing lesson. First, I think you did very well in at least being aware of the thoughts that were running through your mind, and were honest about the hate there. That’s a really good start. After all, the typical reaction would be to hate or be repulsed, and be unaware of it, or to blame it all on the other person. Not entirely your case. While there was a part of you which indeed was judging this person, there was another part observing yourself doing this, and another part aware that there was probably (somehow) another way of looking at the situation. It seems that your actual choice to get up and move seats may have been the most appropriate one. There may have been others, but that was pretty good, I think.

Now, the question might be, could you simply have got up from your seat and sat somewhere else without an entire scenario of hate and attack being played out? You could get up and sit somewhere with a scowl on your face, making sure everyone sees how uncomfortable you are and how this man has so obviously attacked (even) you (as patient and forgiving as you obviously are). Or you could just know that there is nothing truly harmful or worthy of condemnation in the confused things this man does, and know that sitting somewhere else is the right thing to do. Perhaps if everyone does this, moves somewhere else peacefully, the man will eventually see that his behavior leaves people uncomfortable, but that he is not judged, and maybe he will stop (maybe not).

Alternatively, some nanny-type figure might actually be able to give him a maternal, playful tap on the hand or even on the head with the book, and say, “Now you stop being so silly. You know you scare everyone. What did you say your name was? Where do you come from?” The little old Japanese man in the subway might do this, as we mentioned elsewhere. So it really isn’t about what you do (a whack on the head or moving somewhere else), it’s about what you hold in your heart and mind. And the result you produce for yourself within is what you will communicate to the other person. If you are afraid, you will likely feel hate, and not communicate anything peaceful. So it would perhaps be useful to first look at your fear. What could this person really do? How is he ‘hurting’ people? How can you defuse the fear in you?

Unconsciously this man is attracted to the power he has over people to make them feel uncomfortable. And it works well for him. And maybe he really doesn’t want to stop. It might be interesting to note how we all like to ‘have some power’ over others, being able to make them feel like this or that. More than often, we prefer to think we have some power to make people feel good, though often we’re (secretly) quite proud of our ability to make them feel bad. Jesus talks very explicitly about this: the foundation of all our special relationships is our ability to make other people feel guilty. (Several passages in The Needless Sacrifice, Chapter 15) Either way, making people feel guilty (to assume our guilt) or happy (affecting them so as to get their unspoken approval with a smile or nod), it’s the same thing. It’s not bad – it’s just our way of trying to maintain the illusory power of our small, imaginary self.

sunriseWhile we think that someone else’s power to affect others is real (affecting them positively or negatively), we will think our self-same ability is real and powerful, and we will unconsciously feel guilty about this. It makes us feel uncomfortable because it is the ability we believe we slew God to procure - to be able to 'have an affect' and thereby exist. Instead of feeling discomfort about being shown our own failing’s (our own need to do exactly the same and manipulate others in order to feel powerful), and then projecting this discomfort onto other people ("he made me feel like this"), we could smile at the entire charade. We could watch ourselves trying, for the umpteenth time, to have an effect on others, to want to have some power over them, just like this man.

So when this man approaches, perhaps we could say, “Here I am, wanting to scare and affect others. This is me. How funny, now that I see it. But I’m really not that powerful. I can have no real effect over others. Nor does this man have any real effect over other people. Only if they want to be affected and upset by him. It’s all just a game of make-believe. What can he really do, make a fool out of me, speak to me loudly, embarrass me before others?” The other people in the bus, likewise, will be upset only to the extent they want to be upset (now he is the guilty one in their existence). Yes, it’s a bus full of secretly guilt-ridden passengers who are upset by this man. But you don’t have to identify with them, seeing yourself like them and equally (oh so justifiably!) upset by this imaginary situation. As the first lessons in the workbook show us, it is not a fearful world we see, but a meaningless world, which the ego then rushes in to give (guilty, hateful) meaning to. Again, it is not a fearful or hateful world we see, or even feel. It is a meaningless world, both the outside world, and our inside world of thoughts and feelings. Not bad or sinful, just empty of sense and meaning.

In the beautiful quote that you mentioned, I took out this line: “All the angels will come to your aid and you will know what to say or do.” Seeing through their eyes would mean seeing a brother identical to yourself who is first and foremost confused about his reality/identity. He does not see himself as embraced within the wholeness of His Father’s Love, that’s quite clear. Thus he is in a state of total panic, unsure as to his reality, or even as to his existence. He feels a need to prove and demonstrate his ‘existence’ in a way that challenges the perceptions of the people around him. We have all done this at some time or another, being the adolescent rebel, or the upsetting work colleague or the irascible boss or sullen spouse. How often do we do this during our day, challenge the perceptions of others in order to feel ‘alive’, to count and be noticed?

sunriseThe perception of the angels is always available, and the only possible source of peace in the matter. You will then know what to say or do simply because whatever you say or do (moving seats or slapping his hand playfully or poking him in the chest or calling the bus driver or making a comment about his nose or asking where he bought his tie or where he is going…), you will be communicating acceptance and understanding (of him AND of yourself), and it will be loving. AND it is really quite okay if it takes another year or five years of traveling on the same bus with the same man until our perception shifts.

A man on the bus, or a complaining partner or a corrupt elected official… it’s all the same. Slowly, slowly, slowly, we turn all our perceptions around and find how this is only ever about me, but the ‘me’ who is one, who is EveryOne. There is only One of us, and whatever we see in someone else is what we can learn to see in ourselves. Then we learn to let go all connotation of sinfulness or condemnation. We have just made a series of perceptual mistakes without any consequence whatsoever. What scares us in actual fact is the pure lack of consequence. Nothing ever happened. This means there is no real upset in this man’s behavior, ultimately because there is no real man there. But this means there is no real me here either. And so we learn why we need to be patient with ourselves. It’s ultimately about taking our perception very, very far down another track, and this scares us for the time being. Ultimately we will see it is the greatest freedom to learn that none of this – none of it – is what we thought. We are all always entirely and thoroughly wrong all the time. Absolutely all the time. If only we knew how far off-track our perceptions really were…

Wishing you lots of kindness toward yourself and courage. Thanks for this challenge; it is really one we all share.

(Okay, I'll try to be a little more brief next time!)

(Any comments here)



Mayor’s Journal June 14th, 2010

sunrise
The Pool-boy has landed!


This is just a short note to remind everyone that there are no such things as forbidden words or concepts (hopefully there was no doubt about this). All words are equal under the sun and before God and the Holy Spirit’s laser vision. There is no hierarchy of ‘word-ly’ illusions: all are equally unreal, and symbolic only to the extent that we attribute them with power over us, and an effect in our minds. Let us not be weak before a word! No, our strength lies in our ability to see past all judgments and associations, to remember that only the Word of Love is true, and none other, and is the sound every word makes in its purest telling. No confusion we might make in this world could ever remove the true interpretation that stands behind all concepts and thoughts.

So let’s relax a little, and remember that nothing we might say here in the Village might ever justify or warrant judgment or condemnation. A laugh or a chuckle, maybe. A smile, definitely. But never a harsh word. Only patience and kind consideration, even when we might be just a tad, a smidgeon, ever-so-little over the edge on the side of less-than-right-mindedness… Our reward will only ever be – a smile. Okay, maybe a little guidance, too, but no guilt-laden reprimand. (Please do not take this as an indication that I think this might not have been the case elsewhere in any other forum.)

So what’s the list of especially un-forbidden words? I’ll let the Villagers take the lead and suggest them in the ponderings. The goal of this little post is just to clear the air, to ensure that we are not carrying with us any (erroneous) preconceived notions about what is right and wrong in our posting language. However, as you can imagine,* this is not to direct conversation toward special topics; it is just to make sure everyone feels reassured that there is nothing wrong with them either. Over time, I trust we will manage to develop a Villager-way of dealing with these issues of language and fantasy as they arise.

Much love to you all, Bernard

PS Just love the flow of ponderings lately – thank you all so much.
* See previous journal entry on June 8th.

(Any comments here)



sunrise Village Bulletin Board:
I would like to remind everyone at the Village, those who actively participate, and those who silently participate (just as important), that the Mayor is available for one-on-one discussion about any of the issues brought up at the Village. If there is any hesitation to express yourself in this public forum (which can be understandable), then please don't hesitate to make contact with me. I exchange emails and Skype calls with a number of Villagers on different subjects, and this can be an effective way of continuing our learning in a less exposed setting. So join me, and join in, if there is something on your mind; please don't let the open discussion format prevent you from sharing your thoughts and needs for further input. I'll add that this is definitely not spiritual counseling (please see the Monk on the Monastery page), but a continuation of the informality of the discussion group, but in a more private setting.

The Village Hall Hotlines:
Email: bernard@pauloandthemagician.com
Skype: acimvillagemayor

(Any comments here)



sunrise
Mayoral Declaration: A day of ice-cream therapy in the Village
Guess I don't need to say too much about this! *
Just remember, if you're eating by the Fireside, eat quickly!
I just want to send a big hug to the whole Village today.
{{{{{{{{{{VILLAGERS}}}}}}}}}}
Hugs to Lawrence, Nina, Pam, Annie, Lisi, Katrina, Anil, Laura, Acimpunk, Kendall, Ruth-Anne, Ninjanun, Winnie (yoo-hoo!)...
And also to Al, Hedda, Sally, Zenbear, Zafu, Bev, Gail, Sarah, Murrill,
As well as to the silent, meditative observers all over the world who are in our thoughts.
Much love, Bernard
P.S. Just love this photo with the chocolate sauce dripping over the sides... (yum)

* I will add, however, this line from an early workbook lesson: "My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world." Jesus did not say, "My 'bad' thoughts are showing me a meaningless world." They are just meaningless - no value judgment anywhere about what's going through our minds. So we don't have to add a judgment where this isn't one. He also didn't say that our thoughts were showing us a bad world, which we might be tempted to think. Again, it is just a meaningless world. It makes, and has, no real sense, no matter what images play themselves in front of us today.

We are completely free to have all the thoughts we wish: passionate, ugly, desirous, violent, apathetic, melancholic... It is the most freeing gift that Jesus gives us - it doesn't matter what goes through our minds. None of these thoughts has any meaning or significance, and we can peacefully observe them in all their strange pyrotechnical display. They do not mean anything - anything - about us. We are free from any interpretation: we are not good, bad, unworthy, sinful, or otherwise, as a result of what's in our minds. They are just silly thoughts, all of them, whether it's a desire to attack or eat a yummy ice cream. It's just that eating a hot chocolate fudge sundae is a little more socially acceptable (per se) than hitting your work colleague over the head with your notebook. :-)


(Any comments here)



Villager Contribution
June 10th, 2010
Pam wrote us a follow-up to her experience with the explosion across the street that I thought was sooo on the money, I've included it here. For me it just captures the essence of this "extraordinary absence" of anything special we are trying to invite into our lives. Enjoy!

Thanks for the feed back everyone. The drama across the highway is still going on. The State Patrol helicopter just got done circling the site about 10 times then landed in the pasture. FBI agents were there yesterday and I am assuming today also. He was making illegal fireworks. A federal offense. the world is screaming “This is not an ordinary day! Pay attention! Get all worked up about this!” A steady stream of Gawkers goes by. People have called asking me Questions. (The neighbor had the same last name as I. So there is the woo factor)

Here I am observing from my “front row seat” feeling ordinary, doing ordinary dishes,looking out the ordinary window above the sink at their ordinary house with ordinary trees and yard with ordinary people doing their ordinary jobs of sifting through ordinary explosion debris. Then I go feed ordinary kittens…….Ordinary words can’t describe how extra-ordinarily ordinary of a “feeling space” I am in.

Thanks, Pam. One more thing, just a thought on the subject of laughter... I know there is a temptation to think that lightness and fun have taken a bad rap over the past few months, but if I could reassure you that I know personally a certain monk who believes greatly in the healing power of laughter. His own gentle laugh is healing in itself, and a smile rarely leaves his face (I can attest). So let's not give ourselves a hard time if we find the edges of our faces creasing upwards and a chuckle bubbling in the depths of our hearts. The whole Sonship laughs with us. Only a smile is then seen, written on all things.

(Any comments here)



sunrise Village Bulletin Board:
June 9th, 2010
The Mayor wonders if anyone would be willing to share his/her daily "hallucination". Someone amongst the Villagers today had the perception at one moment or another that someone else in his/her life was the problem. And this Villager's first thought was, "If only he/she would just ..., all would be so much better!" As in, "If only she would stop talking so loudly on her mobile phone, I would feel so much more peaceful..." If that Villager happens to be you ('fess up!), then perhaps you would like to take a moment and share your event (briefly) AND the reversal of that thought (of course! Otherwise, what's the point??). Perhaps the Forgiveness page? Or the Fireside page if you want to be more informal and munch a scone at the same time.

Other news:
An event in Pam's life yesterday has us wondering about bringing a healing interpretation to certain outside events. Laura the not-so-toddler-student had a great suggestion. Also, counting down till the 16th and the beginning of Lawrence's retreat.



Village Bulletin Board:
June 8th, 2010
An anonymous Villager left these words on the bulletin board in the market place this afternoon. They were spotted by the baker who told the cobbler who passed the message on to the… I think the thoughts are related to laughter, but that’s just my guess.

Silence is the grand hall in which our laughter and thoughts
Play their melody,
Reaching back toward the stillness.

Within the noise,
Amongst the traffic and crowds,
Throughout the interminable meeting,
And waiting in those long, long lines,
The gentle Smile looks on.

Silence waits only for a quiet mind to be heard,
Not for the absence of sound.

Silence within sound.
Stillness within laughter.
Always, quiet.

Laughter is the background music played in the halls of stillness.

Every sound holds stillness within it,
Smiling quietly.

When the last thought of separation is undone,
When all the universe disappears into Light,
When the stars become One and the day never ends,
There shall be that smile.



(Any comments here)



Mayor’s Journal
June 8th, 2010
This morning I found on my computer two questions by Villagers about our home nestled between the Rightmind Hills that I’d like to talk about here. The first question was about the use of silliness, laughter and non-acim symbols. I’m glad the question came up because it gives us a chance to re-visit this subject. The Village is starting to exist in its own right (not just as the result of events at the Monastery), and together we need start to form a culture that conforms to the needs of everyone, and respects everyone’s desires.

sunrise You see, I'm really not against silliness, as such. If anything, I like a bit of laughter and humour. It has just been a question of guiding us all to focus on the real purpose of our being together. It's difficult to maintain that line when at heart none of us are purely and uniquely philosophers but also human beings who like to laugh and smile when we are together, as one does when amongst friends and loved ones. I love to think seriously, to ponder on (non-) existence and eternal Love, and also to laugh and smile. When face-to-face, it's easy to slide from one to the other naturally. Over the internet, we have to write it all out. That's where the 'danger' is.

We are a pretty heterogeneous group of students, really. Some of us like to use images and symbols that come more directly from the imagination, and others prefer a more studious atmosphere in which the focus is implicitly and explicitly on applying our spirituality and sharing our experiences doing so. The question is how to provide a village space in which both types of students feel comfortable and truly at home. If there is excessive gaiety and the use of too many imaginative (non-acim) symbols, then some people are quite likely to feel simply 'not at home'. While I do not want these people to feel excluded, it would be a pity if the other type of student did. As we saw at the Monastery, it can be a bit of a challenge marrying the two different atmospheres. It doesn't mean we can't, but in the birthing phase of the Village I did want to be a bit careful. So there has been some emphasis on keeping the use of laughter and non-acim talk/stories to a minimum.

sunrise In all honesty, I can't say I know how to find or encourage this balance. Perhaps because 'I' can't do it. It is something that must come naturally out of the participation of the Villagers. Can we leave a message with everyone, ponderers and on-lookers alike (who are sometimes numerous), that we are devoted to our chosen spirituality, even though we sometimes use laughter to help each other in the lightest way possible get through an otherwise ego-dominated day/world? We can only ask them for understanding and patience (and forgiveness) as we work our way toward finding our own balance here, one between excessive silliness and distracting playfulness on the one hand, and exclusive stony-faced sobriety on the other. Perhaps we all need to learn to smile and break up the seriousness on our faces with some gentle laughter and humor, but not in a way that becomes the focus of our communication and participation. A Buddhist monk’s face is creased with smile marks. Smiling is not his specific goal; it's just a natural outcome of his inner work. How can we learn to 'smile' when we write without smiling becoming the objective?

Does anyone have any other thoughts on this matter?

The second question I have been asked, and it is not the first time, is about following the different topics here brought up by ponderers and the Mayor, which is the question about ‘threads’ and discussion pages. We do not have threads here because I preferred the more informal nature of run-on dialogue. This was compensated for by ‘pages’, where someone interested in a particular topic would just go to that page to post a comment. The disadvantage of that system was the proliferation of pages in which participants found themselves zapping tons of pages to get to the comments that interested them. So I took off the comments on certain pages in order to encourage everyone to keep their ponderings to two or three main pages. But this doesn’t allow someone to comment directly on the subject that interests her/him. Sooooo…..

I’m going to try yet another model. I’ll group all the entries of the Mayor’s Journal by week, so that there will be a separate blog page with comments for each week of entries. This will keep the number of pages to a minimum, and provide a separate place for people who would like to comment specifically on that comment. How’s that sound, everyone?

Other Village business:
Ninjanun is here!!! Welcome, Village-sister! So glad you could stop by. It seems you’re having similar connection problems to Ruth-Anne. I can’t figure out what might be going wrong for you two, if the problem doesn’t happen with other sites. My connection went through a phase like that, to the point where I would systematically save and copy all my comments before hitting the submit button, so I could just copy and past them if they got trashed.

Lawrence picked this up from Lisi’s post the other day, and it’s worth repeating: You are something greater and More precious than The best person in the world. You are not a person. You are the Christ. And in that recognition All your struggling ceases, You cease to speak.

Pam would like Kaitlyn (Lawrence’s daughter) to know that she is welcome to stop by the Village for a cup of tea and to be warmed by the fire anytime she wishes.

And if there is any doubt, I would like you all to know that we have a number of devoted Villagers who are actively participating here as “silent witnesses” (a lovely Buddhist term). Their thoughts are with us. Their contribution is being made and we can hear their silent, gentle presence if we put an ear to the ground in the corn-field by the old mill, or alternatively to the wall of the chapel at the northern gate early of a morning when all the world is quiet and still. Our thoughts and blessings are with you, too. We join in your quiet reflection even in the busyness of our lives.

Have a great day, One and All,
Much love,
Bernard

Please comment here.



Mayor’s Journal
June 7th, 2010
Beyond the poor attraction of the special love relationship, and always obscured by it, is the powerful attraction of the Father for His Son. There is no other love that can satisfy you, because there is no other love.” T.15.VII.1.1-2

I opened our beloved blue book this morning at a random page and this is the phrase that jumped out at me. I just love it anytime Jesus mentions this ‘powerful attraction’, like when he talks about the one of ‘love for Love’. I hadn’t realized that he had used these precise same words twice in the book. And then the wonderful, no-exceptions ‘there is no other love’. Well, isn’t that just how we all feel daily? No? Uh, perhaps not. You, maybe. But not usually me. Typically there seem to be so many other things I will come to love during the course of a day, some of them planned (espresso!), and some of them not (a check in the mail, a successful meal that I cooked – now that is a surprise!). And this got me thinking that the way I lead my day is in fact purely from one special relationship to another.

sunriseThe ‘me’ I think I am is always relating to something ‘outside of me’. Now, that relationship is always one of trying to bring something into my life because I think it is good for me or brings me pleasure. These these are all my special love relationships, I figure. And then there are those things during the day I will try to avoid because I esteem them as affecting me negatively, such as avoiding a particular neighbor, or putting off doing the taxes - my special hate relationships. An endless series of things to do or to avoid purely to guarantee some extremely tenuous sense of ‘well-being' for this individual I still perceive myself to be. Phew! What a lot of work, and according to Jesus, all for nothing!

The essence of the separated state is one of guilt and lack, and these fill the mind so completely that every thought during the day will be one of using and manipulating the outside world either to feel better (special love relationships) or to avoid feeling worse (special hate relationships). In reality, of course, only one relationship is possible, as Jesus tells us above. That relationship is the one not with illusions and delusions, but with our Source, our heavenly Father. Once this holy relationship is brought back into the mind, the need for such special love and hate objects evaporate, since we no longer feel a lack that we seek to fill, or guilt that we then project onto the world around us.

What I love about this is how the ego is so total: we can’t pretend to not be dominated by it. We will live our lives today as a series of special love and hate relationships – that’s a given. So why feel guilty about what we know we’re going to do anyway? The Monk has been helping me learn this lesson for a year now, and it has been sooo useful. It’s not about avoiding the ego or trying not to be filled with ego. It’s about looking at being filled with the ego from the moment I brush my teeth in the morning, till the moment I tuck myself into bed at night – and learning to look upon this with the love of Jesus as my guide. In His sight there is no judgment; there is no guilt. It’s all just a mistake, nothing more. And a mistake is a mistake is a mistake. And will never be a sin or a crime worthy of condemnation or punishment.

Ahhhh…

Please note that acimpunk is quietly resting in a field of sunflowers (hemp?) where he is waiting for us to come join him. Also, note Lisi’s nightime consciousness is helping us understand it’s not about trying to be a ‘good person’. And Nina is jumping up and down for a good reason. Also, some loving thoughts from Lawrence (helped by Neil Diamond – okay, I’m to blame), and Annie.

So, let’s have a day today of knowing that whatever we think we need or could do without, a wonderful presence lies just beyond our sight that would take all the stress out of that busyness.

Love you all, Bernard



Mayor's Journal
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
That same fateful day after my meeting with the accountant and my coffee shop resolution that “this change was somehow going to work” was the same day the Village came to life. Perhaps it was just a pure coincidence that I received an email that same day informing me about the changes at the Monastery. But it felt a lot like a hologram shift to me. You know, the kind of day when you shake your head and say, life wasn’t quite the same yesterday. It was like walking through an invisible partition into a different physical reality. Have you ever had moments like that? And this is where distinguishing between form and content can be so important. Of course, reality never really changes. That’s impossible. But what we think of as our ‘life’ can sometimes take such a sudden turn that it leaves you wondering about the fixed reference point you called ‘life’ in the first place.

sunriseAccording to quantum physics, there is no real ‘physical’ universe as such. It’s all just energy held together by thought. As Ken would say, even that thought itself is unreal, so there truly is no ‘anything’ to the ‘something’ we call this world. Even the atoms we consider our bodies to be are composed of other, still smaller particles with Startrek-like names. Even more puzzling, these particles are so small that the space between them is as relatively large as the space between the stars in the galaxy. This means, according to the physicists, that there is plenty of space amongst these particles for other particles to slip in, without us being aware. Which means that as we sit here reading this journal post, multiple other realities are sharing the exact same space. We don’t see them because the photons don’t interact with them; they only hit the universe we have decided to focus on. What gives coherence and consistency to the universe that appears before us is the train of our thought, which for the most part, as we know, is dominated by the ego and separation.

So there is a ‘me’ who never stopped doing building work, and another one who went off to start a flower shop in Paris, and another one who had a car accident on the way home and is lying in hospital with a handicap for life - all interacting within the same 'physical' plane.

Now, none of this is interesting as such. Why learn about the presence of other illusory realities when we can’t even get our minds around this one? The only reason I mention it is because, like all these forays into the abstraction of quantum physics, it helps us shake up our notions of what is real and what is not. And what is not real is hardly worth giving too much importance to. One set of pictures versus another.

What is very reassuring to know is that whatever happens to us today, it is just one series of pictures amongst many. What can give meaning and coherence to these pictures is learning to interpret them together with an inner Teacher – who is real. That is the only stability possible in this insane dimension we have imagined, composed of fluff and dust. And His interpretation will always bring us back to one perception about these pictures: underneath all images of separate and competing interests, of sensitive and needy bodies, there is a harmony and perfect order to all things. There is the absolute sameness of our interests, the deep desire to remember our constant Home, to exit the crazy perception of vulnerability and guilt.

No matter the universe we enter today, everything remains firmly held within a space of immaculate Love. We can hold out our hand amidst the images that come and go and touch our brother’s, being just a little less afraid of his reaction. We can smile that light, joyful little inner smile that says, “I am never upset for the reason I think – God did not create a meaningless world.”

Hmm. I didn’t plan on writing this today. So I guess that was a hologram shift, too. Hope it was a fun one!

Anyway, wishing you a happy day in your own personal hologram. I’m glad that your universe includes me for a while! Many thanks for stopping by.

Lots of love,
Bernard




sunrise Right now I'm going through one of those rare periods when I just don't have anyone in particular I can call a real misery in my life. To my ego, I guess this must be a problem, because it seems to be able to find a real issue now with the cat. Yes, sweet little Pumpkin, seen in this photo playing with a decoration from the Xmas tree last December, has become my current bane. How on earth iz zis possiiiible, you ask? Simple. You take a cat which is now sleeping more during the day because it's hot, and then you try to undertake a rather basic activity like "sleeping" (yes, I know it sounds weird, but I do try to sleep at night), and, voilà, at two-thirty in the morning for the past three days, he thinks it's time for us to get up.

So he strolls into the bedroom, announcing his royal presence with a series of loud meowls (not the soft gentle kind, but the piercing, "Yo, guys, I'm up! What's shakin'? kind), and hops onto the bed. Were he to install himself delicately between our legs and doze off again, all would be well. But this is not in his manner. He prefers to purr at the decibel level of an outboard motor (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it seems this way when you're asleep, or half-asleep now), and nuzzle our faces. Cute, right? When we don’t respond, he swats our noses with his paw. Still cute? We ignore him. He takes things to the next level. He jumps up on my shoulder and sits there perched on my triceps, vibrating my body with his purring. I now take action and return his swatting with a swipe of the hand.

In one quick motion he has landed back on the covers, there to settle in for the rest of the night. Hmm. Wishful thinking. You can sense him now taking stock. He knows he has a choice, he can follow his right-mind and fall asleep, leaving us with still a few hours of restorative sleep. But, no, it is to his evil wrong-mind that he looks for counsel. He jumps down, stalks the space next to the bed, and launches himself onto my tiny bedside table. Aside from the lamp that teeters on its edge, there’s the glass of water to contend with, not to mention pens, telephone, a book, all sorts of fascinating things to stroll on and over and explore in this vast domain of three square feet. This’ll grab his attention, he whispers to himself. And it does. The cat (no longer ‘sweet Pumpkins’) is summarily picked up by the scruff of his neck and deposited on the floor.

After attempting the same manoeuvre three times (this is not an exaggeration), he looks for another plan. The bedroom is obviously the problem, and so he sets about strategizing his escape from this harsh prison. The window is open, he smells the fresh air. But he is not so stupid. Having been taken in by apparently open windows before (yes, he slid down the closed window Garfield-style), he concludes it is wiser to take a more prudent approach. Ah! There is the electric radiator under the window – excellent! He extends his claws and sets them into the pin-point holes of the radiator’s grill, and begins his ascent to freedom. As best I can, I ignore the grating sound of the claws on metal, and wait till the cat reaches the windowsill, knowing quite well what is about to transpire.

“Into the wild blue nightime yonder!” the cat yelps with glee, having scaled the radiator mountain successfully and discovered the window open. And that’s when true despair sets in. The shutter is closed. The meowling is spontaneous, terrifying, … ominous. It presages suicide, or at least severe depression. His – no, MINE!

The cat is grabbed (ever-so-tenderly) and expedited outside the bedroom door, which is then definitively closed. After his failed nocturnal adventures, Pumpkin settles down on his bed in the living room to recover from emotional exhaustion. But several hours later, some totally insane internal alarm clock sets off and at five-thirty (again, every night now for three days) he wakes up and makes his way down the corridor toward the bedroom. Faced with the closed door, the disappointment is palpable, it pervades the air, and without any conscious choice (?), a wailing sound issues from his tiny lungs. The sound is like a flood that knows no obstacle, and soon it is flowing under, around, over and through the heavy wood door that separates the intimate, private (and relatively tiny) space reserved for the cat’s masters from the vast animal-dominated space that is the rest of the house. Again, without any intention of disturbing us (I’m sure), his automatic reaction it to attempt to break down the door, which he does by scratching at it with his claws. That will surely reduce the inch and a half of pine wood to saw-dust, he figures. Logical cat-thinking.

By this time I am not the only one being ever-so-slightly upset by this feline tyrant. Patricia suddenly rises, opens the bedroom door, grabs the cat, makes her way to the front door of the house, unlocks it, and drops the source of noise and scratching and sleeplessness outside. The door is closed, Pat returns to bed. And we try to catch up on a rather poor night’s sleep.

The cat, it has to be said, has won.

Hmm. Now, I might be tempted to think that I was bothered by the cat, but is that truly so? Let’s try to look at this differently… No, let’s not.

The fact of the matter is that I was bothered by the cat, but only because something inside me, no matter how invisible, was actually already slightly unbalanced. All it took was one little innocent kitty-kat to throw me over the edge into frustration and despair. If my mind had been located in that perfect (feline-free!) place of peace and reality, nothing Pumpkin could have done would have upset me. Nothing he did was upsetting me. I was upsetting me, by forgetting to laugh at the whole thing. By thinking something was happening – something was happening outside of me that was unjustly imposing itself on my rest and peacefulness. My peace, again, was being taken away by something that had nothing to do with me (I get off the hook). Of course it’s a lot easier to see all this in the morning, but while it’s happening it’s a little more difficult.

Even more disturbing to me was seeing how I puffed and quietly moaned during the night so that Pat would notice my agitation. I wanted her to see I wasn’t enjoying myself, since I had been suggesting for some time that we train the cat not to come into the bedroom (by keeping the door closed). I knew “I was right” (can’t you just hear the sickly self-righteousness in those words?), and the fact that she got fed up and put the cat out meant I had triumphed. Victory! And always victory means I had managed to prove (yet again) that I was the innocent victim of an unjust and cruel God who had cast me out of his kingdom to suffer at the hands of fools (and cats).

Sheesh!



sunrise I received a call this morning only to find out that a close family member of mine has been diagnosed with cancer. Patricia and I went off to a quiet café to be with our thoughts, and we discussed how it somehow felt easier to contemplate one's own death than that of a close loved one, and this surprised us both a little. In thinking more deeply about it and in asking for help to see this differently, the following thoughts came to me. Although it might seem a little direct, maybe even harsh or upsetting, they brought me a great deal of comfort and clarity. I felt I was being asked to take things to another level, and the source of the thoughts felt very kind and understanding. I always express these types of thoughts in the first person though that is not really how they appear in my mind. Basically our question was why, if Love is there for us, does it seem harder to part with some people than with others.

Oneness is that state that calls us unceasingly to remember that we are all the same, all one, and this place of oneness is not physical but entirely spiritual. While we feel attracted to this vast horizon of perfect sameness and tranquillity, a part of us is deeply unhappy with the idea of losing the perception of differences. Why? Because in my world of differences, I feel alive.

The way I keep this world alive in my senses is by disturbing the sublime oneness-horizon with variations and changes. I add to this inner flat countryside with an event that shakes me up, leaving me frightened or ecstatic. And a hillock suddenly appears. A range of low hills manifests when a bodily condition takes over and leaves me on medication for a long time. Then an entire forest, deep and mysterious, emerges when I begin studying a special new field of thought or science. An ocean comes into view, waves rising and crashing on the shore when the stock market becomes the central focus of my life, and the world economy carries me into a vast whirlpool of fear and excitement.

But the most extraordinary and extravagant of all the topographical features in the landscape of my life are the vast and magnificent mountains that soar above all the surrounding flatness, causing all other events and circumstances to pale into relative insignificance. These mountains are my relationships. The people I cherish and hold in my heart and mind create the sense of life that I seek, that I live for. They give it meaning and substance. Without them, life would be flat, dull and hardly worth living. So speaks my individualized self.

When I feel the pain the disappearance a loved one might cause, what I am confronted with is my deep desire, even need, for this person to be vitally important to me. I weave their smile, their laughter, their support, their tears, their kindnesses, their heartaches – everything about them I integrate into my sense of ‘life’. And their passing away would seem to remove a firmament in life as I experience it.

In reality, this other person is not the source of my happiness, or of my inner stability. But this is the way it feels. Can I learn to see that I have a choice?

It is a challenging moment when we face that clear choice – what do I want to be true now? A life that can be altered, shifted and unbalanced under my feet, as the vagaries of health determine who lives and who dies? Or a Life that remains constantly embraced within an eternal Love that knows no change or blemish, no diminishment or lack? This is the choice between a pure and perfect, stable and all-encompassing horizon, and a chaotic and erratic landscape subject to violent earthquakes and destructive volcanoes.

My friends and loved ones are part of the landscape of my life, this is true. I love them, and I will miss them when they are gone. But perhaps I can learn to smooth out the bumps, knowing there is beneath these mountains and hills, these forests and seas, a perfectly calm and serene Ocean. I can rejoin with this Ocean whenever I wish, following the bright star of Jesus back to that place which remains for all of us our true Home, stable and perfect, eternal and kind. That is where we are all indeed joined as One, and not in this ephemeral world that leaves us sad and lacking.



sunrise
Due to recent (perpetual?) interest in this subject, I managed to unearth this little gem of a paragraph from the December 2006 issue of The Lighthouse (official review of the Foundation for A Course In Miracles, written by Kenneth Wapnick).

“…we want to feel banished from Heaven, with the door forever closed to our return. And this desire – the source of all suffering – is the problem, not the perceived banishment. Many years ago I was seeing a young man in therapy. When his girlfriend of several years, with whom he was madly in love, broke up with him, he was devastated. Week after week he would bemoan his painful fate, until one day while replaying the hurt of the relationship’s end, he described his pain as ‘exquisite’. That broke the log jam of self-indulged victimization, and he was able finally to let the girl go and resume his life. Indeed, he was quite right. His pain was exquisite in its pristine attraction. As long as he was able to attribute his suffering to his girlfriend’s decision, his ego was safe, hiding the mind’s insane decision for a life of suffering behind the hurt and anger of a lost external love. All the while, the mind’s guilt over its decision to separate from love lay unknown and therefore uncorrected.

The question remains, however, why would we ever want to feel so terrible?”




sunrise One of our villagers submitted this comment recently and I thought it spoke so clearly of the process we all go through, and so beautifully of the choice that we all face, that it was obvious to me it should be shared with everyone here.

"I’m in the middle of a hurricane right now, there is some holy shifting going on and the Truth is I know part of my responses are coming from a place of shock and I am recognizing that its an important stage of the process and mustn’t be rushed. The beauty is I feel no pain as long as I stand still and observe. From this vantage point I am being given a chance to say my goodbyes to a way of thinking and believing that can no longer serve me or my family…it has served me as best as it could and now I am being asked to operate with a level of power that has no room for mindlessness. I have to grow up…I thought I could automatically get there by watching the clock run down…I’ll be 50 next year but those numbers mean nothing to Spirit who waits patiently…

Without going into any details all I can say is that’s one’s own traumas teach on one level but to guide and support a child or in my case both my children in crisis at both the same time…I have no choice but to surrender and allow all of my learning up to this point to guide us to safe passage. I feel that certainty is the requirment here not wishful thinking. I haven’t the luxury of doubt… the time for making a choice of which Master I will serve has come for me. I am ready to accept my assignment and service with great humility and unwavering Faith. My challenge is your challenge and our purpose is One.

God Is.

Thank you in advance for your support…"



neil diamond
“I am I said, to no one there…”

The words of this classic Neil Diamond song belted into the air at the last job I was doing. Marcus loves this oldies stuff and loads it into his MP3 player, along with a lot of other eclectic music. But I particularly picked up on this. I’ve always loved this song, too, and now wondered where its power came from. It was so obvious, it was staring me in the face.

Mr. Diamond might just be a closet ACIM student, and a good one at that. The ego’s declaration to the world: “I am, I said”; and later, “I am, I cried.” Now that pretty much sums up the ego’s separation-based thinking for me. And then the Holy Spirit’s response of a question mark, asking, "To whom do you cry?" Mr. Diamond: “To no one there… No one heard at all, not even the chair.” The ego may cry and scream all it likes, but there is nothing and no one to hear its plaintive appeals for importance, for reality.

Now, Neil could have looked next to him at the wise Companion whispering in his ear, but it seems he forgot and instead found himself abandoned in his search for self-recognition. In his words, “Leaving me lonely still…” He goes on to say a number of other things about his desperate situation, the most poignant perhaps being, “And I am lost, and I can't even say why…” Which is perhaps why a number of us seem so glad to have found A Course In Miracles! We now know why we feel lost! That’s really useful information. We can do something if we know what the problem is: we’re still turning away from the only Voice that will help us turn back toward Reality and away from the search for some illusory recognition of the individual self.

We could make a truly daring attempt to give Mr. Diamond’s song a right-minded spin…
“We are, we said, as One in Heaven,
And no one need hear our words,
For only Love is real.”
But that would really be pushing things too far…

We do not need the chair or the furniture (or the toaster or the traffic) to hear our cries; we do not need the world to hear our voice. Nothing about us can be lost. All is perfectly intact. The Voice of our right-mind is always heard. Even if we don’t understand all that this means, it’s nice to know…




Reading through some of the great stories on the forgiveness page makes me think of that particular instant in our day when that lightening-like thought crosses our mind: “I could actually see this differently and feel better about it.” Let’s call it a moment of “Whoa!” Or perhaps even better, the moment of “Haa…” because it leaves us feeling so much more peaceful. Just Haa...with a comfortable breath behind it.

It’s that instant in which the attention suddenly shifts from the outside to the inside and the thoughts are just there… “It’s not really this person/event/circumstance that’s making me feel this way. I came here not really feeling totally peaceful inside. What he said/what just happened simply triggered something inside me and brought that lack of peace to the surface. Hey, look at that. I guess peace can be my choice after all.”

Hmm.




If the Holy Spirit were to talk to us in a language that we really understood, he might use road signs. We hop in the car, our eyes shoot outwards from our inner world, and we see something going on out there. We pass a first road sign, it flashes by us: “!!!!”.

Without warning we hear ourselves saying... “Shit! Look at that! Honey, did you see what that car just did? He cut that guy right off, he could've caused a serious accident. I can’t believe it.” Then as the car bumps along, "The town council said they were going to have the road fixed by spring - they call this fixed?!" And finally a few minutes later at the supermarket, "That guy just took my space, did you see him. I mean, he could see I was heading there. Do you think he gave a damn?"

Our breath is short, we’ve totally lost our peace of mind. And then we remember to check out what’s going on inside. ”Ohhh, yeah… I don’t feel good anymore. Hmm. Maybe it's not the outside that's the problem. Ok, so what’s really going on here?”

As we cruise around looking for another park space, we pass another road sign, this one put there by Jesus: “??

And the whole problem could be summarized like this…
The ego’s post: “!!!!!!”.
The Holy Spirit’s response post to us: “??
So !!!!!! becomes simply ??

To the ego, something happened. Something dramatic, even catastrophic, has occurred. Every day I go about and see a string of things that make me feel like something important is going on, something critical is happening. Something to judge, something that is affecting me and causing me to lose my inner peace. I must pay attention to it. My inner world is shouting: “!!!!” and holding its breath, or cutting it short.

And then I see I don’t feel peaceful anymore. This morning I found myself saying, faced with (just one more) unpeaceful thought, “Right, what do I want? I know this feels exciting. I could really take a position on this issue (the environment, national politics, my mother-in-law, the crumbs around the toaster). I can say something is right in this, and wrong in that. This was good, that’s pretty bad. Good and bad, right and wrong. Comfortable, unhappy. And on and on. And on… and on."

I looked over my shoulder and there was this, well, presence there, this peaceful perspective that looked back at me and offered one singular point of view on all this: “What problem? It’s all okay, everything true and real is still intact. Reality is well and whole. Oneness is still true. Love is still just a breath away, if you want It." What we think is so dramatic and requires judgment inevitably is not so. It is something else.

Phew! Er, no, that'd be just, "Phew..."

If we look closely, we'll find the whole world conspiring to ask us a gentle question... What Separation?




It’s 1984, I’m walking through Boston University, it’s not my campus, it’s Sunday, no one’s around, and I’m just exploring. It’s a vast place, the buildings are all empty, a man in a wheelchair is having a heated conversation with a security guard. The guard looks at me and I see something imploring in his regard. So I approach. He is embarrassed, the man in the wheelchair needs help, and the guard says he’s not allowed to aid him: rules apply.

The man in the wheelchair tries to explain but I can’t understand him, his speech is all garbled. His head tilted to the side, his body twisted in an unnatural position, he manages to communicate that he desperately needs to urinate and can’t do it on his own. I don’t answer, I don’t seem to be there, but someone inside me answers for me anyway, and hears that I agree to help him. I’m afraid, what’s going on?

There is serenity somewhere; it’s there, but I don’t understand.

His spastic hand pushes the little lever on his electric wheelchair, and we enter the nearest toilet block. He tells me to reach into the bag hanging behind him. I find a plastic hospital bottle. He tells me to undo his zip, and contorts his body, thrusting he pelvis upward with big heaves, straining against the braces holding his arms in place. The rest is obvious. I take his penis, place it in the bottle, and he relieves himself of all his urine. He is concentrating hard; this is quite an accomplishment for him. He tells me to tip the contents into the nearest toilet.

I’m calm. Very calm. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps the first and only really natural thing I have ever done. I am helping myself go to the bathroom, to fulfil the simplest biological function that can become a nightmare if it is not done in union with another part of ‘me’. I must seek another one of ‘me’ in order to piss, or I’ll explode, simple as that. And ‘we’ urinate. The guard wouldn’t help me, he was afraid. I am incredibly happy this man was there. But both are a part of me.

The man in the wheelchair is over the moon, he is radiant; we complete the ritual in harmony together, putting the bottle back in the bag, zipping up his pants, making sure his penis is out of the way. He looks at me with shining eyes and asks if I am a hospital aid. I don’t know how to answer. I have never helped someone like this, but the person who helped him had done this many times before and was confident and completely relaxed. I smile and say no.

Now he is chatting with me as he wheels out of the toilet block and asks if I am a student at the campus. I say no. He asks if we shall see each other again, and I say I don’t think so. He doesn’t know what to say. He is happy and sad at the same time. We have met, Oneness meeting Itself, in Love. And that was enough. He thanks me, and I wonder seriously who he is thanking, because I certainly wasn’t there. I was just watching curiously as this body did things that seemed completely foreign and yet utterly natural at the same time.

I bump into the guard on my way to the car. He was grateful I could help the handicapped man, he is chagrined and tries to explain himself. The man in the wheelchair works at the university in Administration, he shouldn’t come here on a Sunday if he knows he has a problem, he should…

I listen and wait patiently till the guard has finished relieving himself. I smile with him; all is well in our miniature universe of three, dancing a trio on a strange planet full of Life and Sound and beloved Urine. I return to the car and there is an intense peace in everything: the creaky door of my battered old Chevrolet Chevette, the empty McDonalds soda cup on the seat, the acrid smell of the ancient seats.

And I feel love. For all of it. It’s all just so… present.






Bernard Groom Pauloandthemagician.com




The bridge Gentle ACIM Villagefolk, During five years our Monk welcomed his monklings at his door and provided a joyous and thoughtful place for them to talk and study in an interactive community. The community continues, but the interactivity is shifting to another new home called the ACIM Village. I would just like to take a moment to thank the Monk from the bottom of my heart for being such a wonderful, generous host. Here's a bunch of wild apple blossoms for you, brother! (Hope you don't get hay-fever)We look forward to your continuing work in the freedom this is going to give you. We're very happy for you, friend, in the new-found silence that we're also enjoying. Just don't be surprised if sometimes a horde of monklings runs up the path from the Village to tickle you and create a little mayhem! Blessings to one and all.



village at the foot of the monasteryI have been a participant in an excellent ACIM forum for a while, at Acimmonk.com. I strongly recommend anyone studying ACIM to make her or his way over there to meet the monk in person and learn with him for a while. His work has been, and is, an important part of my path. He recently closed down the forum on his site, and generously offered to make a link on his site to mine (you can find my thoughts on this here). I honour his desire to provide a comfortable place for his whisperers to find a new home, if that is what they wish. I welcome anyone, perhaps many of my old friends, from his site to AcimVillage. I will do my best to provide you with a cosy, structured and useful learning environment, with many bridges back to the Monastery nestled in the hills just up the road. Of course, nothing will replace the original acimmonk forum. This is a different place, with a different feel, and a different blogger/moderator. But, if we try, perhaps together we can create a learning experience that can be fun and productive and reminds us of that place. I would also like to reassure those people who don't know me very well that all the pages on this site, as well as my book, have been brought before Ken Wapnick and have received his stamp of approval. While I don't have as close a relationship with Ken as the monk, we do communicate regularly. So this is Paulo’s World, a country village surrounded by deep oak and chestnut woods, broad fields of wildflowers and prairie, criss-crossed by stone-wall paths leading to solitary shephard’s huts and quiet sunlit groves; a perfect place for discovery, meditation and rest. Hamlets, collections of small farmers dwellings dot the countryside; each and every door is open, a fire lights the hearth and a warm welcome is extended to everyone who makes his or her way there. Sanctuary is found at every moss-covered stone, at every cobbled pathway turning, under the great chestnut on the north field, or perched on top the stone bridge crossing the river where the water eddies and swirls around its great feet. In this AcimVillage, we have the great oak that stands in the central village square. Its enormous branches spread out to cover an area wide enough to provide shade on a warm day for many a traveller or tradesman. Water bubbles and trickles from a stone fountain on the eastern side. It is under the oak and by the fountain that wandering monks and sages have traditionally lead conversation with the local people, before setting off again on their way. One monk in particular, living in a small monastery up in the Misty Mountains, descends on occasion from his solitude to buy his rice, tea and other supplies. As he passes through the Village, people wave hello and cheer him on his way. His sacred writings are known far and wide and people love him for his quiet, clear presence. It is to the Village Square that the townspeople come to exchange views and thoughts on their beloved spiritual philosophy, learning from each other in kindness and wisdom. When their minds have been filled, they retire to the tavern on the western side of the square where they share in social discussion, learning of each other’s events and challenges, happinesses and sometimes sadnesses, too. With a mug or glass in hand, they collect in front of the great Fireplace that dominates the long wall. Benches and chairs are often filled on market day with those who have come from farther away, bringing news of events and views the local people delight in hearing.



The bridge Recently the monk at acimmonk.com decided to remove the Cloister (forum for discussion) from his site. To many of us this might seem quite surprising; many of us had become regular 'whisperers', or at least regular 'lurkers'. Jamie's gift to us was a magical world that we could explore and participate in via the many different rooms, nooks, abbeys, chapels, grotto's, scriptoriums, and so forth. It was a wonderful time for many of us, and for now this phase is over. There was, of course, a time before the forum was created, a time when a visitor strolled through the blog pages and writings in a quiet and solitary fashion, and to this meditative, true cloister, the monastery is returning. In the European tradition, the cloister was a place of quiet and reflection, where monks and nuns could stroll in the formal gardens or under the stone arch 'ambulatoire', crossing each others' paths, acknowledging the presence of the others, but without engaging in conversation. It was a place of meditation, and inner harmony. Over time, the monk wished to return to this original idea that had been the first seed of the monastery at its inception. For those of you unfamiliar with managing website forums, the task of moderating and organizing the participants is truly formidable. It is a serious investment that requires a great time commitment. A number of us had noted Jamie's increasing absences from writing and whispering, corresponding with the rise in the number of whispers and the explosion of discussion rooms. In essence, it was one or the other. There was not time for both. While we greatly missed his participation, we were delighting in the freedom of personal expression offered by his site. We have done that; now we need to turn the page and let him do what he does best: write and learn, and communicate with us as a teacher and brother. Please do not have an unkind thought toward him. He has offered us a great deal over time, and if he has taken something away now, it is only to give more of what is truly valuable. We shall not miss it. On the contrary, I think we will all be deeply grateful for this turn of events, for the time we will be allowing him to do what he does best. He will still be the same generous, giving person, but sharing something more than just a place for us to voice our thoughts. It was only yesterday that he mentioned to me the possibility of making a link to my site. I hesitated, understanding the sudden time commitment this could bring. The site was not ready; I was not ready. But it was clear to the admins and myself that it would only be right to provide an alternate venue for the cloister participants. If you do not find all the pages ready, if 'Paulo's World' still looks rough around the edges, then know that this was not planned! It will still take a little time before I'll be fully happy with the welcome I would like to provide you. 'AcimVillage' was created at 1am last night, so it is just waking up, bleary-eyed, from a short night! The bridge is still under construction. I rushed out this morning taking pictures of my local area that I would like to include on the site, but that will take a little time. I'm still a slow-learning website novice. Whereas Jamie's lifestyle is that of a monk, mine is that of a hermit. Whereas Jamie's theme is monasterial, mine is more old European-style villages and countryside (basically like where I live). I discovered ACIM in 1988, and moved to the south of France in 1990. My first encounter with other students was at Ken’s academy in 1999, after which I returned straight back to France and my country village and have stayed here since. I have tried to leave several times, but something always steered me back here. My first real interaction with other students was through Jamie’s site, and it remains today the only place I retreat to for ACIM company. It is a rather solitary existence over here, one that has taught me a great deal about coming back to basics, time and time again. I always thought I was missing something in the world by not integrating more. And then the words would come back to haunt me, “The only thing you are missing is My Presence.” Paulo and the Magician was born in the space of quiet that fills my life over here. It was written in a stone cottage in my village which dates from the 13th century (it used to be the gatekeeper’s house of a Templar fortified castle). My moving into this ancient little house was completely unexpected. At the time I occupied the house it had neither heating nor hot water, neither kitchen nor bathroom, and I arrived one fine day in the middle of winter! But it was one of the most extraordinary times of my life, one that I still try to recreate today. This is where Paulo began life. He is truly a product of the 13th century, infused with the timelessness that pervades all things, everywhere. Please feel welcomed to his world.



The bridgeI was talking with a friend the other day and this memory came up in the conversation. What I write about truly happened in this way, two grueling events of public humiliation for which I was very much guilty, in a foreign country where there was not a lot of slack for this kind of behavior. One of those intense "learning periods" in my life. I think it gave me my first serious face-to-face with guilt (with parents it didn't count!), and pretty much obliged me to find another solution, which, I'm glad to say, was there to be found. Looking back, it was a profound event, probably my first real awareness that something other than my purely guilty mind existed. As an aside, this was still several years before finding ACIM. Tokyo, April 1983 A thousand miniature pink and white butterflies fluttered and danced before my tired eyes. A warm breeze for this time of year lifted the flower petals from the cherry trees in swirling waves from the trees in Tokyo’s ‘Central Park’, but I hardly had the heart to pay even the slightest attention. I sat myself down on a bench and looked upwards, trying to work out where precisely I had gone wrong. Mr Ohmori’s words still echoed in my mind, his weathered, gaunt face peering paternally at me over the bar in the dim tavern, and I shuddered with their guilt-laden meaning. I had failed – again. Fitting into Japanese society was now further away than ever; my hard work had come to absolutely nothing. There was only one thing to do now, and I wondered precisely how I was going to manage to do it. I had arrived in Tokyo eight months earlier to make my debut in what I considered to be a truly sensitive and mature culture – that of the Japanese and their art of living. My mind was full of the spirit of Bushido and my heart set on finding the truth of the Zen masters; I was to enter a karate dojo on the western side of the city, learn Japanese and, well, ‘grow up’. I was only nineteen, and knew there were still many things to learn in this strange world. The Japanese seemed to be powerful masters in so many fields, and at the same time brought a particular sensitivity to even the most mundane activities. In the short time I was there, I had been astonished at their attention to even the smallest details. Wrapping a parcel for a customer buying a gift of rice sweets was a thing to behold. So much concentration, a fluidity of movement, and a precision that showed me I had still a long way to go to understand what it meant to be really ‘present’ with my daily activities. Fate, however, or better, call it the ‘unconscious’, can make a mess of really good plans. The language school I had booked into did not come up with the promised cheap dormitory accommodation and instead had relegated me to a downtown hotel – way above my means. In scrambling around to find any kind of alternative, a secretary at the school introduced me to a colleague, Takahashi. Now, Mr Takahashi seemed like a nice young man somewhere in his early thirties, who then introduced me to his equally nice-looking friend, Mr Mori. It just so happened that Mr Mori lived with his parents who had a room they could rent to me in their house very inexpensively. As Mr Takahashi informed me, this was a very good proposition, and besides, his friend needed to improve his English. Yes, according to him, this would be perfect favor for his friend. I looked from one to the other in the coffee shop and began to experience a weird sensation, one I would become uncomfortably familiar with during my time in Japan: it was the ghost of ‘social obligation’. And it started to seep into me from the surroundings, the o-cha teapot, the foreign faces, the exotic language. I was being ‘hooked’, and since I was just a lowly, poor and relatively unworthy foreigner (meaning, not coming with social connections of any note), I knew I needed to develop a network, get myself ‘in’ with some people. This did not seem like a perfect fit, but at least I was making in-roads into Japanese life. Hey, hardly a week had expired and I was already living with a real Japanese family. That sounded like progress. A week after moving in my expectations were dramatically altering. My new ‘family-life’ was evidently going to be archaically constraining. You see, as a ‘young-un’ I was expected to go to school and hurry myself back into the family fold where I would studiously work through my language homework till dinner time, then off to bed. But this emancipated Australian had recently come from a year in Austria were all known social taboos were expected to be broken and life and libido to be enjoyed without further ado. A little adaptation was okay. But this was too much. There was an entire foreign city out there to explore! And my karate classes were on the other side of town (two hours train ride from ‘home’). It just wasn’t going to work, but how to get out of this sticky situation? I was most concerned about not offending my new hosts by turning down their gracious hospitality. And so I turned to the only friend I had, Mark Grattle, a fellow Australian also dedicated to karate and learning the art of Japanese social etiquette. He said it was truly impossible to extricate myself nobly. I would have to ‘do a runner.’ Basically this meant packing my bags and leaving, without attempting to explain to anyone what the problem was. I gave in to his worldly experience, and the next day head out the door with my bags in tow, a very perplexed lady-of-the-house (who spoke no English) closing the door suspiciously behind me. Well, it didn’t take long to start my intensive training in what not to do in Japan. Takahashi called me up at the language school and ordered me in language which left no choice to an executive meeting in the same coffee shop where we had met. I was faced with two staunch adversaries in this cultural sparring match, one was fuming and sweating, spittle dropped from his mouth occasionally as he punctuated another injurious phrase with an insult or jibe. The other, Mori, was evasive, wounded, his eyes meeting everyone’s except mine, finding a point of focus in his o-cha cup, leaving all the hard work of punishing this foreign subversive element to his big friend. Indeed, over the space of an hour and a half, I was ranted at in a voice raised to a level that left no one in the coffee shop unaware of what was happening in the far dark corner. I’m sure I was white with fear. I was extremely embarrassed, and terribly impressed, taking very seriously Takahashi’s claims of having contacts that would see me expelled from the country in short time. What had I done? I had exposed this poor Japanese family to the heartless, selfish whims of an outsider who had been welcomed with open arms by this family sacrificing its only room for my benefit. I was totally socially inept, less than worthy of being admitted into Japanese society for the sake of my studies. My only consideration should be to return as quickly as possible to my homeland where my offences would go unnoticed, bathing as the Australians obviously did in a mish-mash of permissiveness and complete lack of social structure. Welcome to my projection. If only it had stopped there… Some months later I was still in Japan and making some progress. I had promised Takahashi that my mother was working on booking me on a flight. She was sure he would understand, she asked me to tell him, that she would be most appreciative if he would allow her son to be able to finish just one semester since the expense had been so great to bring him to their country. My mother, of course, knew nothing about this. But strangely I did not dislike Takahashi and attempted to understand him. He had been embarrassed, and was doing what he thought he had to in order to defend his friend. I could understand that. And so what if he exploded at me? I had seen worse. I even began to give English lessons to his sister’s daughter, which I genuinely enjoyed. I think that made a difference with him. Mark Grattle in the meantime had become my best ally (despite his previously poor advice) in our race to ‘become Japanese’. After all, it was well known that the most respected foreigners in Japan were those who had adopted all the appropriate social manners, even to the extent of criticising other foreigners who quickly became cultural ignoramuses in their eyes. Mr Ohmori’s tavern was the center of Mark’s social world, a circle a Japanese client had introduced him into. I was quickly adopted as the young Australian boy who needed a hand making his way through the maze of Japanese traditions. This is where it gets ‘interesting’. My younger sister, Romanda, visited me from Australia, to learn a little from her older brother’s experience in the wide foreign world of Asia. Sumiko and her husband, two of the tavern’s regulars, thought it was a pity we did not discover something outside of Tokyo. They invited us to share space with them in the apartment they had rented for a few days in the mountains not far from the city. It was February and there was still some snow, we could all go skiing together, wouldn’t that be good? Wouldn’t it?? I looked around the tavern: slightly different faces, different scenery, but the exact same feeling – the ghost of social obligation was definitely back again. I didn’t really want to go and besides it was going to cost money. But they were so persuasive, and it was clearly such a generous gesture on their part, it would have been quite inappropriate to refuse. What reason could I give that was valid? Nothing I tried seemed to work. All my arguments seemed like a veiled refusal of their hospitality. I had learned; I was more aware; but I did not yet possess all the tricks and nuances of a fully practiced member of Japanese society. Everyone thought this would definitely be the best thing. They wanted us to go. Yes, it would definitely be best if Bernard and his sister went skiing with Sumiko and her husband. Mr Ohmori thought so, so it must be true. He was the group-father; he knew everything. How could they possibly refuse? How could they know otherwise? They were too young. Okay, so now we’re going skiing… I was not happy. The night before we were to leave (a 6 am departure) I was sitting with Mark and my sister in a bar and contemplating my unhappy circumstance. That’s when Mark came up with his second most brilliant idea ever: we just had to “chuck a sickie.” And voilà, all problems resolved! My sister just had to get sick and we couldn’t go – how simple. We wandered out of the bar about midnight feeling quite happy about our solution. But our joy was suddenly dampened when we bumped into a local from Ohmori’s tavern who tipped his head in a gesture of good evening as we passed. Mark and I looked at each other. Nah, he wouldn’t tell. I called Sumiko at 5.30 am and explained that my sister had come down with a sudden case of gastro-enteritis and we were unable to leave with them. She was understanding and sympathetic and asked if there was anything they could do. They were quite sweet. Being such extremely sweet people, I should probably not have been surprised when the doorbell rang at 6 am and there was Sumiko and her husband on the doorstep. But I was. I was surprised, and terrified. And embarrassed – again. Was there anything they could do? No, it was really too, too kind of you to stop by, but she just needs to rest. She has all the medication she needs with her. No, we don’t need any food. Thank you for the oranges, but we don’t need… A week later I was summoned to an official meeting in the tavern. This was it, my second dressing down in a public place. How humiliating! You guessed it, the fellow we had bumped into recounted to everyone at the tavern about our midnight loitering in the bars of Tokyo the night prior to leaving. They had quickly concluded that the entire thing had been a farce, insult had been done, payment must be made. Well, at least this time it was more civilised. The shouting was all internal, strained faces, hushed voices, piercing looks. But the guilt and disapproval were just as palpable. Sumiko and her husband were masters of the art of the wounded look. But it was nothing in comparison to Mr Ohmori himself in whose establishment the crime had been committed. I wasn’t sure which was worse, his words of disappointment and betrayal, or his silences that stunned me into instant submission. Despite my succession of humiliations, I was learning. I wasn’t sure precisely what, but I was advancing on my path. I could feel it. Some months later, as I wandered the streets of Tokyo amongst the intense noise and humanity, I still felt the incisive heat of self-hate, my own accusations of stupidity and disrespect, issuing from the two social catastrophes I had incurred in the space of eight short months. The faces that looked back at me all seemed to reflect my painful judgment. And yet there was something else present there, too. Something that wasn’t just hate. What was this ‘other thing’? It needed to be explored, approached, investigated, even amongst the rubble of my feelings and pride. And so I took the metro to the Emperor’s Park at Chiyoda and strolled amongst the cherry trees now in full blossom at this time of year. There was something else there. And as the floating petals settled on the ground to the delight of children and picnickers, I let my thoughts roam and felt the presence out there come just a little closer. Something was there, quiet, calm and serene. I had been through the worst and had come out alive. But I was still there. Socially, I had been murdered. I was a mass of pulp, having been manipulated and turned and twisted around and made to admit all my terrible errors. But funnily, it didn’t matter. I was still there, or something was still there, and it wasn’t shameful at all. I had died, nothing more remained to salvage, yet something was left, and it was remarkably calm. In a real sense, nothing had really happened. My objective for first coming to Tokyo returned to mind… It was clear I was not learning from Japan. Or at least, I was not learning to become Japanese. And then I blinked. Suddenly it was all so obvious – I was not Japanese! I was a Westerner! Yes, I was a Westerner, and that was okay. That was not a cause for shame or disrespect. It was quite acceptable. Where I came from, things were different; they were not better, we were not superior. Just different. There was no formal obligation to participate in this foreign relational game of guilt, disgrace and obligation. It was all my choice. Looking around me now at the faces sparkling in the shower of wafting flowers, I smiled spontaneously. I felt truly free. It was like instant liberation. I was suddenly free from the need to pretend, to try to fit in. It was a magical moment and I still remember it well. Months of debilitating self-judgment dropped away in that instant of awareness that whatever was there in me, or with me, it was okay. It was profoundly okay, despite all my faults and transgressions. In fact, the more I looked at my heartache, the more it amused me. There had never been any real problem. It had only been my insistence on taking their judgments seriously that had caused my upset. As such, they had become my judgments, and yet the instant I stopped sharing them, the crime was gone. Evaporated. Sitting there on the bench I became abruptly aware of my breath. Had it always been there in that way? The soft, rhythmic movement, participating with the air around me in the gentlest fashion. Why was I suddenly noticing it now? My mind felt lighter, the dark shadows of an imminent judgment had temporarily disappeared. A presence somewhere close by – the sakura forest perhaps – was speaking to me, and everything shone differently. Everything was suddenly just there, not dwelling on some past heinous act, or on some fear-laden future. There was nothing to judge. Everything was just the way it was, and that was perfect. And then I was sure I knew what I had to do, and how to do it. I rose quietly from the bench and began my first true discovery of this magnificent city. Not as a student painfully and dutifully trying to learn things Japanese, but just as an observer watching the play of life around me. Shinjuku and Ikebukuro were still the same mad, hectic urban centers, but my zig-zagging and slaloming amongst the throngs of anonymous faces was now purposeful: I was there just to be. Not to try to be; to be this or that. Not to aspire to something else, for things to make more sense, to decipher the enigmatic social code . There was a freedom from expectation, a freedom from the idea that ‘one-day’ I would perhaps master this language, this culture. No, I could just look and participate in the flow of bodies and sounds, the flashes of neon light and the clangs of the city. My yakisoba were slurped now without wondering if I was making just the right noise. Would people notice I wasn’t born in Japan by the way I ate my noodles? It didn’t matter! It was so much fun… freedom from guilt and sin; a moment in life unencumbered by heavy thoughts and judgments. A moment of innocence, and harmony: the true spirit I had come to this country to find in the first place. It had been there all along. It was everywhere. After two months of absence from the tavern, Mr Ohmori sent his son, Miki, to talk with me. In great detail Miki explained how there had been a misunderstanding and how it was essential that I return to the fold. I smiled inside. There was genuine compassion for this young man who was so caught up in games of obligation and obedience. We did not know each other, this was the first time we had met; he had come because his father had told him to. He was afraid of returning with a negative response. Now the group was feeling guilty that they had perhaps truly insulted me. I had to return to assuage their feelings. But I would not. I calmly informed him that I was aware of my inability to become a proper and responsible member of their group (which was true), and that my mind was made up. I would return to Australia to continue my studies there. I gave no further explanation or excuses. That was in his culture to do so, not mine. I hoped that he felt the same calm presence around him that I was feeling at that moment because he would need it upon returning to describe our conversation. He would be held responsible for any perceived failure. My conversation with Miki was a particularly adult moment for me at that time, I remember. I felt comfortably equal with this thirty-something year old, and capable of holding at bay a tavern-full of mature Japanese adults. I must quickly admit, however, that this did not stop me in the future from sinking right back into serious adolescent anger and resentment at times. But it was a start, something I could remember in the future as a signpost. At least I had seen that there was indeed ‘another way’.
* * * * * *
In May, just before returning to Sydney, I returned to my bench in the park one last time. The cherry trees in the Emperor’s garden were patiently nurturing their fruit for the early summer harvest. I tilted my head upwards toward a blue sky, and saw once more in my mind the whirling froth of pink petals that had laid such a magnificent carpet at my feet. They seemed to have stayed with me as I traversed the last few weeks of my time overseas. I felt that maybe they would always remain somewhere close by. Despite my failure at integrating into Japanese society, and my inability to master the sport and the language I had come to study, I felt I had learned something very important during that year in Japan. Perhaps the ancient Zen masters had manoeuvred everything precisely so that I would end up in that cherry tree wood that wonderful spring day. ACIM Footnote: Now that I look at this finished blog post, a couple of things strike me which I don’t think are very clear in the text. I should probably make a quick note of them here… 1. It is clear to me that this was all of my doing; there was no real victimization, even though we might all certainly agree that what was done to the character ‘Bernard’ was not motivated by love or compassion. It was all my doing in two ways. Firstly, my interpretations were causing me pain, not the angry words spoken to me, as mentioned above; and, secondly, it was no accident that I had ended up in those particular places faced with those particular people. Something crazy inside me was drawing me to these situations (this wasn’t the last time, unfortunately!), and that something was my deep desire to feel put down, subservient, humiliated. Why? Because my insane ego was telling me to find reinforcement for an inner picture of the world and myself, a picture I desperately wished to maintain. This would certainly help me to keep feeling like a particularly real and unworthy individual, albeit at the expense of happiness and God’s Love. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to find someone I could blame for this unhappy picture, instead of taking responsibility for my choice for turning my back on Love. In effect, I had arrived in Japan at Morita airport, descended the stair ramp with my backpack onto the tarmac, and had stuck my nose proudly into the murky Tokyo air and said to myself (unconsciously): “Somewhere in this gigantic city there is a person and a place which is going to give me exactly the humiliating, dishonoring experience I’m secretly looking for. Now, which metro line should I take to find it?” After all, no one had forced me to listen to my friend Mark and to follow his advice. Why did I do it? Why did I not try to explain to Mr Mori’s family that I had made a mistake? Why was I so unable to explain to Sumiko and Mr Ohmori that my sister and I would not be able to go skiing? Surely that was not impossible. No. My humiliation-sniffer-outer was working full-time and had found a way of being disgraced, of getting myself into impossible situations of obligation and duty. And I continued for a very, very long time doing precisely this (okay, even yesterday…). Don’t we all? If it is not a situation of subservience, then it is something else, some other way of feeling disempowered, a victim, hard done by. (Remember, it is not a question of avoiding being taken advantage of or hurt - this is inevitable in the classroom of the world. It is when we have the feeling of being the victim that is a signal to set the right-mind into motion). It is the ego’s blame-sniffer, and it is always on the alert for a propitious opportunity. “Ah-ha!” it exclaims, on encountering yet one more juicy situation, “I’m sure I can make something of this. There is a justifiable way of being a victim here. Now, what’s the story-line going to be this time…?” 2. This series of experiences happened to take place in Japan, but I'm quite convinced it could have happened absolutely anywhere. It was not something particular about the Japanese that made these events inevitable. On the contrary, I had met many foreigners there who had had wonderful experiences with their local hosts. I could have gone to Santiago or Bombay or Dublin and found myself having exactly the same type of experiences, okay, perhaps without the o-cha and cherry trees. But basically the way I see it life will always give us exactly what we are looking for, which in ACIM-language might translate to ‘denial always leads to projection’: whatever we secretly harbor within ourselves will find its way into the world and be reflected back to us via our experiences and perceptions. If we want to feel better, if we want to move toward an experience of Love, it’s up to us then to learn to become aware of these perceptions and the mind that is choosing them. Only then can we make a different choice. The Love is always there.
Cherry blossoms are floating in an eternally blue sky, wherever we are.
Bernard Groom Pauloandthemagician.com





****