This is it! This is exactly what A Course in Miracles teaches, “To forgive is to overlook.” This is the prize I’m keeping my eyes on. The gist of the practice, the jewel of the lotus, the way back home.
It doesn’t escape me how contrary to our conditioning this way of thinking and being seems. But from experience, I know that the conditioned ways of thinking and being can only bring about suffering. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided long ago that living in a self-imposed state of a lack of peace will not get me to peace.
Ask yourself this: If only love is real, then what are all thoughts, perceptions and actions (yours or someone else’s) that are not based on love? If only love is real, it must follow that anything other than love is unreal, and is therefore an illusion, a dream, a hallucination.
Now it makes sense to overlook what we can’t (yet) love because why would anyone in their right mind invest in illusions, dreams and hallucinations?
The first step is to recognize and admit to ourself that we’re clearly not in our right minds most of the time because most of the time, we do invest, and heavily so, in illusions. We do this by attaching to and analyzing and judging and condemning and worshipping so many things, ideas and beliefs, none of which come from love and none of which have any substance because they don’t come from love.
For the sake of experiment, try overlooking what you don’t love and would by default react to with anger, judgment or self-righteousness. Overlooking what we don’t love means forgiving which means we’re in our right mind. Doing the opposite means staying stuck in the familiar and wrong mind.
I could have taken this photo by letting everything be in focus. But overlooking most things in the frame, and focusing on one tiny part, I find the photo more beautiful.
What if we could see only love and automatically discard the rest as illusion? The road to that point seems long and strenuous but not taking that road is certain hell, as we all know if we’re really honest with ourselves.
This year especially, I’ve been grateful to have the choice to forgive. This was the intention I invited my yogis to set during our Thanksgiving practice today, and to keep that intention as we ride out the rest of this intense 2017 and slide into the next year.
Being grateful to have the choice to forgive doesn’t mean I’ll make that choice every time. And it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process. For a master, forgiveness is unnecessary because a master doesn’t see fault to begin with. A master’s heart is saturated with love so much that nothing can disturb it. A master sees beyond the duality of good and evil, birth and death, right and wrong. I’m far, far away from being a master but I trust that the day will come when I too will not need to forgive anyone because love and nothing else will flow through me. But in the meantime, as I often struggle to choose from spirit rather than from the ego, I’m grateful that I have the choice to forgive, however imperfect that process may be.
To forgive, to for-give, means to give forward; to give love, compassion and understanding no matter what we perceive was done to us because we trust that doing so will benefit all. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone hurtful actions. It simply means we choose to understand that those hurtful actions are projections of the unhealed minds of people who are hurting, whether they know it or not. To forgive in no way requires we keep a relationship with the ones we’ve forgiven. It’s a process that happens by us, for us, inside our own hearts and it really has nothing to do with others.
Until we’re ready to wear the long white robe of a master (not literally, of course), we can surrender to the call of the heart to forgive and trust that the heart will never leads us astray, like the mind has done countless times. It takes the same amount of energy to resist, contract and sell out to fear as it takes to let ourselves surrender, expand and give over to grace.
This is the prayer I shared with my yogis today:
Let the fire of my heart consume any judgments, resentment and fear until all that’s left is understanding, compassion and forgiveness.
I ask for forgiveness from all those I’ve hurt, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action. I forgive all those who have hurt me, knowingly or unknowingly, and release them. I also forgive myself for having held on to judgment and resentment.
May the energy of my heart be naturally, effortlessly and courageously expressed through me; through my thoughts, my words and my actions.
May my own practice of understanding, compassion and forgiveness benefit others.
I know that this is the way of love, the way to freedom and the way back home.
The belief that by seeing it outside you have excluded it from within is a complete distortion of the power of extension. (T-7.VIII.3)
God knows only how to extend himself. (Please don’t get hung up on the word “himself.” Words only point to the meaning, which is always beyond words.) By this extension is how we (Christ) were created. To understand this better, let’s substitute the word God for the word love: Love grows when it is extended, and love only knows how to extend itself because extension is its nature. To connect this idea to an experience in your own life, just remember how expansive you feel when you give love to someone. And when you give love, you feel love in you. Every time you give love to someone else, you also give it to yourself: this is how love grows when it is extended.
In reality, which is beyond duality, we are nothing but love and we can only extend ourselves as love. And in this world of duality, when we perceive from the right mind (Holy Spirit), we use the power of extension properly and therefore see God in everything and everyone. In other words, we see ourselves in everything and everyone.
When we perceive the world from the wrong mind (ego), we have distorted that power of extension and replaced it with projection. To understand projection, we have to understand that we have a split mind: the higher Self, or Holy Spirit, and the lower self, or ego. The higher Self can also be called true Self, while the lower self is the false self. The true Self is unalterable, and was created by extension of God and is therefore one with God. You are still as God created you, even though you forgot that and instead have identified yourself with the lower self, which is just a fearful idea that you are separated from God. You never could have separated from God, which is why the ego is called the false self. In this world of duality (birth/death, you/me, black/white), we identify ourselves with the lower self, or ego, and we do so out of ignorance of our true nature. Our mind is split, and we suffer because we know somewhere deep inside that the false self, with which we identify most of the time, is not our true Self.
The split mind is the result of oneness seemingly becoming partitioned into many parts (non-duality seemingly became duality, and one seemingly became many). When there is only one, there can’t be a within and without, an inside and outside. But when the one becomes more than one, there is suddenly a within and a without because there is you and there is me, and they seem to be vastly different. This is the basis for the ego’s worldview, which is projection: what is inside of me is different from that which is outside of me.
No one really sees anything. He sees only his thoughts projected outward. (W-8.1)
The ego looks outward and sees the world happening out there, independently of its thoughts. When we perceive from the view of the ego, we believe that the world made us, rather than seeing that we made the world. This is how the ego shifts responsibility from itself onto the seeming other: this “other” can be one person or a group of people (a family, a sports team, a political party, a country). It doesn’t matter whether the “other” is one person or the whole planet — the fact that there is an “other” allows the ego to project outward whatever it doesn’t want to see within.
But learn and do not let your mind forget this law of seeing: You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed, bony fingers. If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and of love. (W-189.5)
The terms projection and extension are describing the same law, the only law that exists: as within, so without; as above, so below. Both projection and extension imply that there is more of something that already exists. It’s really important not to overlook the “something that already exists” part. But this overlooking is exactly what the ego does. The ego looks at the world and sees violence, hatred, greed, death, but it would never occur to the ego that whatever it sees out there is only a reflection of that something that already exists in here.
When we judge a murderer, we should ask ourselves whether we ever had a murderous thought. This may seem ridiculous because to think you want to murder someone and to actually murder someone are two different things, right? The Course tells us, however, that there are no degrees of insanity: we either have sane thoughts (love) or insane thoughts (fear). You’re sane when you align with the true Self, spirit, and you’re insane when you align with the false self, ego. And everything that is not love, whether it’s “just” a thought or an act, is fear. Fear may manifest as hatred, greed, ignorance, violence, depression, anxiety, specialness…If it’s not love, it’s fear, the Course teaches. And since only love is real, fear is just an illusion, a projection of our own untrue thoughts. This is an important point: fear, in whatever form it appears, is always a result of our own thoughts about ourselves projected outward.
Just like the word projection invokes an image of something being expelled or ejected (as in throwing up!), so does the ego try to get rid of something by seeing it in someone else. Yes, it is an ugly image, but a helpful one: When we judge others, we throw up our beliefs about ourselves on them. But unlike in the act of physical throwing up, we don’t get rid of our beliefs by ejecting them. And we continue to suffer because those scary (though untrue) beliefs we hold within keep controlling us. The suffering is unbearable, so we keep trying to get rid of those beliefs by projecting them. We keep seeing out there whatever we’re afraid to face in here. This is how the world looks like according to the ego, or the false self. Do you think a true world view can come from a false self? If I see myself through a filter, I will keep seeing everyone else through that filter.
When we project, we try to get rid of something that we think is within us and that causes us suffering. But when we extend — and only love can be extended — we’re not trying to get rid of anything. We feel more love in us the more love we give to others. The more we give, the more we keep for ourselves. This is a law that’s totally contrary to the ego’s thought system. But don’t forget that the ego was made not by extension, but by projection. It can only do the tasks it was made to do, and underneath the seeming myriad of ego’s tasks (success, individuality, specialness, conflict, war) lies only one goal: sustaining the illusion of separation. What better way to keep up the illusion of separation than making many out of one, and seeing in the other something that you never want to see in yourself?
Regarding the split mind, it is also very helpful to remember that you have two teachers: the ego and the Holy Spirit. One teaches you that there is no loving God and that you are a helpless victim of the world. The other one teaches you that God is all there is, and that you, therefore, must be an extension of God. The way you see the world depends on what teacher you listen to:
You cannot learn simultaneously from two teachers who are in total disagreement about everything. (T-8.I) Yet it is surely the mind that judges what the eyes behold. It is the mind that interprets the eyes’ messages and gives them “meaning.” And this meaning does not exist in the world outside at all. (M-8.3)
If you see yourself as separate from God, and therefore deserving punishment and having been condemned to a life of fear, you will look at a world that reflects those thoughts back to you. The murderer in our example sees the world and himself that way. When I, who has never murdered anyone, condemn you for anything, even if I do so “only” in my thoughts, I see the world not unlike the murderer does. I see a lack of love, and I choose fear, just like the murderer does. The murderer probably doesn’t see love at all, ever, and chooses fear by default, while I see love sometimes and selectively and choose fear only 90 percent of the time. We appear to be different on the surface (for one, I’m adjusted to society and the murderer is not) but we both suffer greatly because we see the world through our respective filters of fear.
If you see yourself as one with God, never having left your true state of undivided spirit, you will look at a forgiven world: you will see the hatred, ignorance, violence, oppression and injustice as a reflection of the thoughts of separation we collectively have, and you will be able to see past that veil and recognize the light of God in everyone and everything. You will see that anything that isn’t love is just a call for love. This is exactly what Jesus realized. It is why he was able to give love and forgiveness even while his body was being nailed to the cross. The message Jesus tried to teach us then and is teaching us again through A Course in Miracles is that only love is real and that we are love. Everything else we seem to see is just a projection of our fearful thoughts; a dream we are collectively dreaming, all the while the oneness that we are remains undisturbed.
When the thought of separation has been changed to one of true forgiveness, will the world be seen in quite another light; and one which leads to truth, where all the world must disappear and all its errors vanish. (W-pII.3.1)
But we can’t change our view of the world and our view of other people unless we have changed our minds about ourselves. As long as I subconsciously believe that I am a horrible sinner and that I have done something terribly wrong, I will keep attracting relationships and circumstances that will prove to me what I already think of myself, no matter how false my beliefs are. If I believe I deserve punishment of any kind, I will see a world wanting to punish me. Whatever I believe about myself, I will keep “throwing up” on the world, and whatever I project will stay with me, controlling me. I will continue to repress those fear thoughts in myself and see them in others instead.
Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. (T-21.I)
This metaphor may help you understand that perception is a result and not a cause; meaning that whatever we see (perception) is a reflection of our thoughts (cause): If you went to the movies and were unhappy with what you see on the screen, would you go to the screen and try to change and manipulate it in any way? Even if you ripped off the screen, the movie would keep playing on whatever surface is behind the screen. Of course, you say, to change what’s playing you’d have to go to the projector. Exactly. Think of everything you see as a movie that’s being projected from your mind, which is your projector. To change what you see, you have to go to your own mind and change it first. This idea is at the heart of A Course in Miracles: seek not to change the world because the world is an effect; change your mind about the world because your mind is the cause of what you see.
How many of our present moments do we actually spend in the present? Most of our now moments are colored by our memories of the past. We’re seeing what is not here because the past is not here. When we mentally wander off into the future, all we are doing is project our past experiences into the future. Again, we’re seeing what is not here because the future is not here. We’ve created a double illusion: we use something that is not real (the past) to create something else that is equally unreal (the future). Where is the present moment in this whole mental maze of illusions?
I see only the past because everything I see now, I am seeing through the filter of the past. From Lesson 7:
Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it? (W-7)
Let’s say you see someone today you have not seen in 10 years. Your picture of that person will be based on what you know about him from 10 years ago. But is this who he is now? How do you know who he is today if you see him through your filter?
Now let’s say you see a stranger, someone you’ve never met before and know nothing about. But she looks just like this other person you know! Your evaluation, you picture, of this new friend will be colored by your experience with the woman she reminds you of.
How many times have you judged someone wrongly by assuming he was just like an old friend of yours because he looked like your friend, was related to him, or was from the same country your friend comes from? What is your current evaluation of people who have hurt you in the past, or those whom you remember as being kind in the past?
Every encounter we have with someone else is colored by our own judgment, by our own evaluation, of that person. This is why we only see the past, and do not see our friends as they really are. The instant I see someone, whether I know him or not, I color him in with my own opinions, beliefs and judgments. How can I see him as he truly is when I do that? I can’t.
We always evaluate people based on how they were at some point in the past, and not how they are now. The ego’s favorite thing to say is: “Of course they are the same way now as they were back in high school because people don’t change. I don’t trust anyone.” Or, another one of ego’s favorites is: “I don’t care if she’s saving a million babies from starving every day. What she did to me way back then was horrible!”
‘Now’ has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now. (T-13.IV)
Everyone you meet offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the past by seeing the other person as he is now, and not how he was then. Your release of him is your release of yourself.
When we hold onto the past, we choose to do so. It’s not an automatic or natural response, but a conscious choice. It is, however, a conscious choice of the ego, which is not the real you. But as long as you identify with the ego, you will think that the ego is you, and you will keep listening to its insane reasoning.
Does holding onto past grievances make you feel liberated and at peace? No? Then why do you do it? We justify holding grudges by this insane idea that we deserve justice and that this person needs to pay for what he did. But what he did is not real now because whatever he did, he did in the past, which is not here anymore. You are bringing this hurt into the present and therefore making it real for you now. The only question you need to ask yourself is this: Does bringing the past into the present bring me peace?
The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms. (T-13.IV)
We mentally live in the past, while, in reality, we can only live in the present. By using the present to stuff it with past experiences and future anxieties (and all anxieties are projections of the past into the future), we obliterate the present and are ultimately residing nowhere, since now is the only time there is. Why do we wonder, then, why the future turns out to be just like the past? We made that choice by bringing the skeletons of the past into the future. The ego will say that history repeats itself. Of course it does, because we allow the ego to bring history into the future.
The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past. Would you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it as a meeting with your own past? For you would be meeting no one, and the sharing of salvation, which makes the encounter holy, would be excluded from your sight. The Holy Spirit teaches that you always meet yourself, and the encounter is holy because you are. The ego teaches that you always encounter your past, and because your dreams were not holy, the future cannot be, and the present is without meaning. (T-13.IV)
Love is ever present because love is the only reality. But by seeing the present through the filter of the past, we can’t see love because our filter obscures it. Since all of our judgments are based on the past, we can release all judgments by being in the now. By holding a grievance, we bring the past into the present and ensure that the future will be like the past. But the past is not even real, so we’re making ourselves a future that is based on illusion. Who can find peace in an existence based on illusion?
Heaven, therefore, is a letting go of the past entirely. Once we let go of the past, we let go of all judgments and grievances, since they are always tied to the past. The past is the barrier to the love’s presence, which is our natural inheritance, as the Course says. The past is an illusion, and is therefore nothing. It is only a perceived barrier. There is actually nothing that keeps us from experiencing Heaven, or our true nature, right now.
The now moment is the closest we can get to eternity while we are still believing in time. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but no time. Eternity is a state beyond time. Time is a device of the ego, set in place to keep us tied to the past, ensuring that history will repeat itself. Remember that the ego is not your friend, but a parasitic fear thought that can only survive if you believe in it. The ego can only live in the past or in the anticipated future (which is an extension of the past) because the ego, being not real itself, can only reside in time that is not real. The Holy Spirit, which is your true self, teaches you to be in the present moment because the now moment is the closest you can get to eternity, which is your true home. The Holy Spirit uses time to reinterpret it, showing you that time is not a linear phenomenon, existing independently of you, but simply a teaching device. Once we have removed the barrier to truth (and the barrier is the past), time, like any learning device, will become unnecessary.
If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future. This interpretation ties the future to the present, and extends the present rather than the past. But if you interpret your function as destruction, you will lose sight of the present and hold on to the past to ensure a destructive future. And time will be as you interpret it, for of itself it is nothing. (T-13.IV)