Saturday, October 25, 2014

What You Can Learn from A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles has profoundly changed my perceptions about myself and the world I live in. I describe the impact that ACIM has had on me in a separate blog post: How A Course in Miracles Changed My Spiritual View of the World.

As always, you can go to a complete list of Spirit Quest blog posts by clicking here...

In the meantime, let me share with you some of the key teachings contained in the Course...


1.  What is a miracle? A miracle is not defined as walking on water or turning water into wine. These are acts of magic. A miracle actually means a correction of perception. A Course in Miracles seeks to change our perception of everything. When we change our perceptions, the world we see around us and our experiences in it begin to change.

2.  We think this physical world is real, but it is only an illusion. We created this illusion, and we "came into" it for the purpose of spiritual evolution. The challenges we experience in the illusion can accelerate our spiritual growth.

3.  The five physical senses make the physical world seem real. Fear convinces us of it.

4.  In fact, we are still in Heaven, dreaming that we are experiencing a life here in the physical world. The task before us is to awaken from this dream (as in a spiritual awakening).

5.  Just as we never really leave our beds when we are asleep and dreaming at night, so also have we never really left Heaven. At some point, we will awaken and realize we have been dreaming all along, just as we do when we awaken from our nighttime dreams each morning.

6.  We seem to be born into physical bodies in a physical world, but the truth is: we are not even here.

7.  What we think we see around us in the world, and what we experience throughout our lives, is just a projection of our own mind. We can change the world we seem to see around us and our experiences in life by changing our thoughts, beliefs, and expectations.

8.  We think we are physical bodies, and as such, we believe we are separate from each other.

9.  Our physical bodies are an illusion we created to try to separate ourselves from each other. Likewise, we created the physical universe to try to separate ourselves from God.

10.  The belief that we are separate from God and from each other is the cause of all suffering in the world.

11.  Time also is an illusion. Everything that seems to be happening now has, in fact, already occurred, and we are merely observing it, much like watching a movie that was produced months or even years ago. When watching a movie, we become immersed in it, and what happens in it seems “real” to us.

12.  We can choose the ego’s thought system (as we normally have done). Or we can choose the Holy Spirit’s thought system (as A Course in Miracles encourages us to do).

13.  The ego is the "separate me” that I think I am. The ego’s mantra is: “Seek and do not find (the truth).”

14.  The Holy Spirit is the Voice of God/or the teacher that dwells quietly within us. The Holy Spirit can teach us the truth about what we really are — that is, divine, eternal, invulnerable children of God. The Course refers to us collectively as the son of God. Jesus was not God's only son; we are all sons or children of God. God is Love, and so are we.

15.  The Course seeks to help us undo the ego’s stranglehold on us.

16.  Special relationships are totally different from holy (or divine) relationships. Special relationships typically are what we experience here in the physical world. In them, we expect others to satisfy our wants and needs. If they fail to do so, we can withhold our love from them. This is called "conditional love." We think others are responsible for our happiness. We believe we are victims of other people and life's circumstances. In truth, we are creating our own reality at all times.

17.  Forgiveness is a central teaching of the Course. As used in the Course, forgiveness does not mean saying "I sorry." Rather, it means: The things I thought others did to me in the past never really happened. Instead, everything that seems to have happened is just a projection of my own mind. Thus, I have never been the victim of anyone. Forgiveness is a process of undoing judgments we have made about others and the things we thought they did to us in the past. ❖



Questions


1.  Do you think physical reality is real? Or is it just a very convincing illusion?

2.  If, in fact, we are asleep dreaming that we are here in the physical world, why is it so hard for us to awaken from the dream?

3.  What do you think we really are? And why do you think we came into this physical world?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

You Don't Have to Suffer Anymore!

Have you suffered enough? I certainly have. Let’s find a way to end the suffering that continues to plague us.

For me, suffering refers to mental or emotional misery and distress, such as that caused by chronic depression. Pain, on the other hand, refers to physical discomfort or agony caused by illness or injury. But the terms pain and suffering are often used interchangeably, so my distinction between them may be artificial.

The Causes and Affects of Suffering

The sheer magnitude of human suffering throughout history boggles my mind, and to this day, it continues to ravage our experience here on Earth.

Religion has been one of the leading causes of suffering in the world and in our lives. I'm sure that's no surprise to you. Take Christianity, for example. For 2,000 years, Christians have been told that they should be willing to suffer in this lifetime just as Jesus did, and that their suffering will entitle them to eternal bliss in Heaven. Hundreds of millions of Christians have died excruciating deaths in the name of religion. Others have endured unbearable hardships and self-imposed trials such as penance and asceticism. Many have undergone redemptive suffering, believing it would lead to forgiveness of their sins. I grew up in an environment of Christian fanaticism, so I know first-hand how traumatic it can be and how much mental and emotional suffering it can cause.

In his teachings, the Buddha explained why suffering exists in the world and what we can do about it. He said that suffering originates within us. He said the greatest cause of suffering is our total ignorance of our divine nature and our belief that we are weak and limited physical beings. He said the only solution to suffering is a spiritual one.

My own experience tells me that suffering can impel us to overcome our habitual behaviors and addictions in life. It can ignite a spiritual awakening within us, followed by a lifetime of personal and spiritual transformation. It can prod us to remember what we really are and why we really came here. In other words, it can lead us to a spiritual approach to life. But it can do these things only when we finally get tired of suffering and decide to change our lives.

How to Reduce or Eliminate Suffering

I’ve given a lot of thought to how we can reduce our suffering in life or even eliminate it altogether. Let me share my conclusions with you...

We can gain freedom from suffering when we awaken to our own divinity and let go of the erroneous belief that this physical world and our physical bodies are real.

We need to reestablish conscious contact with God, because suffering originates from our belief that we are separate from God. Of course, when I use the term God, I do not mean the church-version of God.

At all times, we must remember that we are eternal spiritual beings.

We must understand that materialism will never bring us lasting happiness nor genuine relief from suffering.

We need to understand that suffering is not a result of evil or sin, despite what we were told in church, but rather the result of poor choices we have made in life.

We must live in the present moment. The past with its guilt and resentment will not bring us happiness nor will the future with its fear and anxiety.

We should stop taking all of that drama in our lives so seriously, especially the drama in our relationships and jobs. Life is not a soap opera. Most of the drama we experience in life is just a story we made up.

We should try to avoid people, places, and things that lower our spiritual vibration.

We should let go of negative emotions such as fear, anger, and resentment, which fuel our suffering.

We should stop judging and criticizing others, because it only serves to separate us from them. Our belief in separation from others is the leading cause of global strife and problems in personal relationships.

Likewise, we should stop judging and criticizing ourselves, because low self-esteem and self-loathing cause us enormous suffering and block our spiritual growth.

We should stop watching television news and violent movies, which only add to our discomfort and our false conviction that suffering in life is real and necessary.

We should focus only on what we want and not on what we don’t want, because we attract into our lives more of whatever we focus on. For example, we should focus on perfect health and not on sickness.

We should remember that our happiness depends on ourselves and not on other people. We are not, and never have been, the victim of other people, because we create our own life experience.

If we’re not happy with our current life experience, we need to change our thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, because these are what create our life experience.

We should remember that we pre-planned certain challenges for our current lifetime before incarnating. We came to Earth to accelerate our spiritual evolution by experiencing these challenges.

A Call to Action

Most people continue to live in ignorance, fear, and greed. They neither believe in nor understand these spiritual solutions to suffering. Apparently, they are content to go on living — and suffering — as they always have done. But as a spiritual seeker, you understand these solutions. You know they are viable.

Like most people, I still struggle and suffer. But I know what I must do to eliminate suffering from my life, and I believe I am making progress. Suffering is neither inevitable nor necessary nor desirable. We can overcome it by using the kinds of spiritual techniques and approaches to life mentioned above. Doing these things will help us create Heaven-on-Earth. Let’s do it! ❖


Thursday, January 23, 2014

You Are Eternal!

In the Bhagavad Gita written thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna says to Prince Arjuna: There never was a time when you did not exist, and there never will be a time when you cease to exist. Krishna is reminding Arjuna that he is eternal.

Of course, Krishna is not referring to Arjuna in his physical body. Rather, he is referring to Arjuna's immortality as an atma, or soul.

Our fear of death

Like Arjuna on the battlefield, we are afraid of death and will do everything we can to prolong our physical existence. Most of what we do every day is designed to meet the needs of our physical bodies and ensure our physical survival.

Do you know you currently are in an Earth phase of your eternal existence? This lifetime — like those preceding it — is just a temporary illusion you made up in order to have the kind of unique experiences you are now having. And despite what you may have heard in church, you don't have to wait until you die to become eternal and experience eternal bliss. You are already eternal and you can experience eternal bliss right now.

The accelerating pace of time may alarm you at this point in your life. It reminds you that your lifespan is limited, thus convincing you that you are mortal. But when you return to spirit, you will leave behind the sensation of time and enter a timeless state.

Perhaps you would like to achieve physical immortality. Many people would, because of their fear of death. We are so attached to our physical bodies that we want to live in them forever. We believe our physical bodies are what-we-are. We think we are born, live, and die in our physical bodies and that constitutes the extent of our existence. Our five physical senses and brain support this illusion. Our senses and brain enable us to deceive ourselves about what we really are during our time here on Earth.

What you really are

You are, in fact, eternal, non-physical spirit. You have taken on the form of a physical body temporarily for the purpose of spiritual evolution. The physical world you have come to is a marvelous place in which to accelerate your evolution. You need a physical body in order to experience the physical world. You take on the appearance of a physical body when you arrive here, and you discard it when you leave.

The part of spirit that dwells in your physical body is often referred to as the soul. You-as-soul are actually individuated spirit that has taken on the form of a physical body. You-as-soul are like a drop of water in the infinite and eternal ocean of spirit.

While here on Earth, we try to extend our lives as long as we can. Certainly, science and medicine have helped us do this, and yet we continue to look for ways to cheat death. Throughout the day, we devote nearly all of our time to sustaining and preserving our high-maintenance physical bodies. Then, at night, we sleep because our physical bodies require it. Sleeping eight hours each night means we spend a third of our lives meeting this requirement to rest our physical bodies. That adds up to a staggering 25 years or so asleep! You may be surprised to learn that when your physical body is sleeping, you-as-soul are galavanting all over the astral realms. Then, near the end of our time here on Earth, we may find ourselves hooked up to life-support systems in hospitals in hope of extending our lives. That's how desperate we are to remain in our physical bodies.

I think the attachment we have to our physical bodies explains why Christians believe in resurrection. They believe they will be resurrected from the grave in the bodies they now inhabit. Through the resurrection of their physical bodies, they hope to achieve a kind of physical immortality. Personally, I prefer the definition of resurrection offered by A Course in Miracles: raising the mind from the ego’s dream of death to the awareness of eternal life.

The desire to achieve physical immortality is futile, isn't it? Yes, we might be able to extend our lifespans, but we probably won’t be able to live in our physical bodies indefinitely. In fact, I believe the timing of our departure is pre-determined and is known at the soul level. When we came here, we didn't intend to stay forever. “Death” was the way we devised to get back out of the physical world, most often through aging, illness, or accident. At the time of death, the soul-you-are departs from the physical body and goes on to new adventures in the spirit realms where we normally dwell. Without the spiritual energy of the soul to sustain it, the physical body becomes lifeless, like a burned out light bulb that no longer receives electricity.

We may not be physically immortal, but we are indeed spiritually immortal, and we do survive the illusion of physical death. Immortality really means spiritual immortality. But how can we know for certain that we are spiritually eternal as long as we remain trapped in the belief that physicality is real?

Evidence that we are eternal

We don't have to die to learn that we are eternal. There are a number of gentler ways to learn it. One of them is to study near-death experiences. People who have had an NDE return to tell us we are eternal. They provide us with a glimpse of eternity. They tell us that time does not exist in the spirit realms.   

Another way to confirm that we are eternal is through after-death communications with our departed loved ones and through conversations with our spirit guides and other friends in spirit. Yes, you can do this, and despite what you may have been told in church, it is not evil or sinful. Our departed loved ones and our friends in spirit can tell us what happens to us when our physical bodies die. They can assure us that they are happy and in a beautiful place. They can tell us about our never-ending existence. Through our conversations with them, we can learn that our separation from them is just a temporary illusion.

Past-life and inter-life regressions are still another way to confirm that we exist forever. Past-life regressions show us that we normally dwell in the spirit realms and that we choose to periodically reincarnate into new bodies here in the physical world. These past-life regressions show us what our life has been like during our other incarnations. Inter-life regressions, on the other hand, show us what our existence in the spirit realms is like between physical incarnations. Both types of regression help us to understand why our current life is the way it is. They both confirm that we exist eternally.

An end to fear

We continue to fear death because we don’t know what happens to us when we die, and we haven't been willing to find out. The nonsense we were taught in church underlies this fear. We are still living in a spiritual dark age.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can awaken from our spiritual slumber and remember what we really are. As Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, you are not a physical body. Rather, you are the indweller, the atma, the soul. As such, you are eternal. You will never die. When you fully come to realize this, you will never again need to fear death. ❖