I don’t care what your thoughts are, what do they look like?

I think we spend an over abundance of time concerning ourselves with our thoughts. We’re told how powerful they are, and how they manifest what we see, so we better control them, right? We don’t want any negative thoughts coming in. Only positive stuff!!!

But it seems like the only thing controlling your thoughts does is drive you a little crazy. And actually, I think it can be much more serious than that. We’ve all seen people that are imprisoned by their thoughts. How compulsive and ridgid they are. I think this can lead to serious autoimmune diseases. And also to things like hoarding and OCD.

I was watching pawn stars the other day and saw someone trying to sell them an iron lung. I knew of iron lungs, but had never seen one. It made me think about how awful an existence that must have been. I spent like an hour planning out how I would have killed myself if I was trapped in one. It’s hard to imagine a more horrendous experience.

iron lung

But it occurred to me that this is exactly what most of us do to ourselves. We use our thoughts to build up an iron lung that we keep ourselves trapped in. To protect ourselves from the world. To not let people really see us. Touch us. Hear us. We just barely let ourselves breathe, which is actually true.

And this is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We don’t realize there’s another option.

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I think there are two keys to unlocking us from this prison.

1. It’s necessary to separate your self from your thoughts. You are perfectly capable of functioning without them. Think of professional athletes, racecar drivers. They aren’t thinking and yet they do incredible things.

2. We’ve been trained to verbalize everything. Like when we are reading we sound out each word in our heads. This isn’t necessary. You can just scan over the words and your brain registers it just the same. Verbalizing your experience grinds everything to a halt. What we are can be so much more nimble and responsive than this. Instead try looking at things energetically. Instead of a thought just being a word you hear in your head, what does it feel like? What does it look like? Where does that energy sit in your body?

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After I got some distance from my thoughts and started paying more attention to their energetic structure, I first noticed that most of the time it felt like I was trapped inside a prison. Like I couldn’t breathe. Like I had a straitjacket on. But in seeing this I could gradually shift their structure to where my thoughts were more of a cloud. Something that I could choose to ignore and push aside. They became much less important. Much less appealing. I’d much rather sit in my body without them. This is actually enjoyable. I have room to breathe. To let things flow in and out. I can see things clearly. It’s peaceful.

I can still pull down that bubble and engage my thoughts when I need to do something analytical, but most of the time they aren’t necessary. I can just let them do their thing out there in the cloud, I don’t really need to pay attention to it.

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If you’re trapped in an iron lung, thinking positive thoughts is going to be an uphill battle. You might get a couple here or there, but you’re trapped in a fucking prison. Think about that for a second. How incredibly difficult it would be to be happy in a situation like that. You’d have to be some sort of zen master. I’d fucking lose it if I couldn’t move my body more than a couple inches.

But what if instead you’re lying in a field somewhere feeling the breeze blow through your hair, soaking in the sun. You’re going to be pretty happy without exerting a lot of effort. You can just get out of your way and let everything be.

So if you find yourself trapped in a prison, don’t try to think happy thoughts… GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

The-Shawshank-Redemption-Script

So you think I’m an asshole? Yeah… you’re probably right…

So good…

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Chapter 8, section V. The Undivided Will of the Sonship, paragraph 5:

“Whenever fear intrudes anywhere along the road to peace, it is because the ego has attempted to join the journey with us and cannot do so. Sensing defeat and angered by it, the ego regards itself as rejected and becomes retaliative. You are invulnerable to its retaliation because I am with you. On this journey you have chosen me as your companion instead of the ego. Do not attempt to hold onto both, or you will try to go in different directions and will lose the way.”

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Wow… That’s pretty ruthless. To basically say you have to abandon the ego. This brings up all sorts of unpleasant feelings. The ego usually masquerades as a helpless child, so initially it makes you seem like an unholy asshole for abandoning it. For even thinking of abandoning it. What kind of heartless creature would leave behind a child? One who needed its help? Who was desperately reaching out, crying, beaten, tormented by life? Could you possibly live with yourself if you turned your back on this?

This is obviously a trap, but it’s a damn good one. I think in a lot of ways this is a good illustration that to follow a lot of this course stuff, you could legitimately be called an asshole when being judged by the normal standards of society.

And I think the trick is that you have to be okay with this. To be okay with living outside what most people consider to be decent. To not conform to what is “right”. To be an outsider in this insane society.

And the greatest ally in maintaining this position is the Holy Spirit, and the perspective it brings into this. Like I quoted above, this is a journey to peace, to truth. You can’t bring illusion with you, it must be abandoned. But these things have no real substance. You aren’t actually abandoning anything. It’s just an illusion. The guilt that comes with this is just a trick to get you to turn around. It’s perfectly okay to feel happy as a result of this abandonment, as bizarre as this might sound when viewed through the lens of what society normally thinks…

I’ll quote one more passage which is from paragraph 6. It’s hard to describe how badass reading this makes me feel (which I’ve done probably 20 times now).

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“Never accord the ego the power to interfere with the journey. It has none, because the journey is the way to what is true. Leave all illusions behind, and reach beyond all attempts of the ego to hold you back. I go before you because I am beyond the ego. Reach, therefore, for my hand because you want to transcend the ego. My strength will never be wanting, and if you choose to share it you will do so. I give it willingly and gladly, because I need you as much as you need me.”

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Awwwwwwwwwww yeahhhhhhhhhhhh, I love that!

Split mind and “minor” miracles

This is a perfect example of how unique and valuable the course is. I originally read this a month ago, and did get quite a lot out of it, but I reread this passage in a study group this morning and had a completely different understanding. That’s why you can never really be done reading this book. After only a month this little idea has changed so much. And this book is like 1,000 pages long…

The course often talks about a split mind. On one side we have the ego, and on the other side we have our spirit. This naturally produces a lot of friction, as these two sides seem to be in direct opposition to each other.

This is a fundamental concept that is talked about in pretty much every spiritual system, and it seems like everyone has a different solution. Some say to eradicate the ego, that ego death is the ultimate goal. Some say you have to retrain the ego. Force it to produce different, loving thoughts. Others say this split is irreconcilable. That it has to be accepted for what it is and lived with.

I’ve tried all of these, but ultimately they did very little to help. They actually probably did more damage than anything else. I realize now that self attack is never a solution, which was my approach to the ego for some time.

The course lays out why trying to resolve this split on your own is a lost cause.

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Chapter 4, section 1 “Right Teaching and Right Learning”, paragraph 2:
“Nothing can reach spirit from the ego, and nothing can reach the ego from spirit. Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it. Your self and God’s Self are in opposition. They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive in the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication”

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These two minds live in completely different worlds. There is no frame of reference for either one. You can’t teach the ego anything.

The course poses a different solution.

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“If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God.”

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Hmmm, that’s a new one. I don’t fight the ego, I don’t try to change it, I let the divine take care of that. Another burden dropped. And this is actually something I’ve been witnessing within myself for years. Where I will start having a very ego-based thought loop start, then all of a sudden I get this completely different thought dropped in that breaks that loop and brings me out of it. It’s like a friend is reminding me “hey, you don’t have to do this, let me lift you up out of here before you get sunk in too deeply”.

Sometimes I go right back into the loop, but most of the time I smile seeing how silly it was. I’d always kind of thought this was dumb luck, or just a random coincidence. But now I see this was the divine reaching down and helping me out. This intervention has happened to me a couple times today, and afterwards there has been immense gratitude and appreciation that wells up within me. It’s such a validation that the divine is connected to me, helping me out in my day to day existence. On the surface it might not appear to be some huge miracle where I am walking on water, or emerging from an accident unscathed, but to me these gentle reminders are just as special.

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“And gratitude to God becomes the way in which He is remembered, for love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and a thankful mind.”

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This is so cool to me. For the course to explain something that is already happening. So I can consciously direct it. Put more energy towards it and see the results.

It feels like so many solutions that other spiritual systems propose are creating something out of nothing. It’s like you’re almost going against your nature. Fighting upstream. Trying to force these changes. I’d much rather just tap into something that’s already happening. Especially something that allows me to relax. Drop burdens and responsibilities instead of adding more. The more I can offload onto the divine the better… I’m tired of fighting upstream…

I’m kind of an asshole…

Chapter 5, section 5 “The Ego’s Use of Guilt”, paragraph 2, sentence 3:

“What is truly blessed is incapable of giving rise to guilt, and must give rise to joy. This makes it invulnerable to the ego because its peace is unassailable.”

I really liked the idea of a peace that is unassailable. Wouldn’t that be nice? Not to have to worry about being attacked all the time? I’ve written about this earlier in regards to schizophrenia, where I have this feeling that someone can annihilate me. Attack me at the deepest level.

So this kind of set the stage for the following:

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“If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God.”

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Oh man…. I had never looked at it this way before. As an attack. But I think it’s totally appropriate.

In high school I was on the golf team, and there was a ladder system to where every week you would challenge the person above you to work your way up the ladder. One week during a challenge I was in charge of the scorecard, and towards the end of the round I erased one of my earlier scores and dropped it down by a stroke. The dude caught me and called me out, but I ended up winning anyway so it kind of got dropped.

But this is something that has left a deep wound in me. Whenever my thoughts drift to golf, they undoubtedly hit on this incident and I ruthlessly tear myself up for it. I’m trying to separate myself from that action. That I am not that person. I am something better apart from them. That I will punish myself harsher than anyone else ever would, so that I might be acceptable in their eyes. It’s like “You don’t have to punish me! I’ve already taken care of that 100 times over! You can approve of me now, right?…… Right?”

This all set the stage for the following, which really hit me:

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“The guiltless mind cannot suffer. Being sane, the mind heals the body because it has been healed. The sane mind cannot conceive of illness because it cannot conceive of attacking anyone or anything.”

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So……. this is huge for me. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for 5 years now. Every day. It’s totally changed my life. In many ways for the good, but I’m so fucking tired of it. I feel I’ve learned the lessons and am ready to move on. To not have to constantly deal with this.

And in reading these passages, I realize that I have had a very victim mentality with this. It’s like I was at the whim of my body. Unable to control this pain. It was doing it to me. Poor me, right? BUT… I think what was actually happening here is I’m attacking myself. And wow, that is not fun to think about. To go from being this innocent victim worthy of sympathy, to being the kind of person who is so viciously attacking himself that it manifests physically and persists for 5 years…. That’s quite a shift. But I think it’s the absolute truth. It’s like I force myself down into this little ball, and whenever I reached out trying to express myself, I would ruthlessly attack myself until I shrunk back and hid again.

While getting a massage a few months ago I had this image of my inner child trapped in my right forearm (which is the main source of my chronic pain). He had built himself a fort out of Legos and completely walled himself off inside it. He wanted nothing to do with me because all I ever did was attack him. This little innocent kid, and I would just ruthlessly assault him. Now that I think about it it’s like “Well no shit, of course all this is going to lead to illness, emotionally, mentally, physically…” But my ego likes to cleverly disguise this so it can be the “good guy” somehow.

So that’s pretty fucking depressing right? Admitting that I’ve been enthusiastically beating up a little kid all these years? But what often happens with the course, is that it shows you both how twisted you can be and then the moment after it liberates you from it. So right after I had all those dark thoughts I realized “Well… what am I really attacking here?” And the answer is nothing. I’m wrapped up in this ego illusion, and whenever that is the case nothing I do is real. So I’ve been attacking myself for years, but there’s nothing to really atone for. I can drop it in an instant because none of it was real. The ego doesn’t like that because it wants to perpetuate the cycle because it feeds on it, but I think it’s entirely possible to see this for what it is and let it all go.

And I feel much more in charge when I realize that my illness is a result of my own doings. It means I have the power to release it. I’m not a victim here.

I’m seeing a pattern that goes something like this.

Step 1: Admit I’m an asshole who does some pretty twisted stuff.

Step 2: See that I’m not really an asshole, that I’m really free and have done no wrong.

I think a lot of people would rather skip step 1 and just emerge in this space of being innocent and holy, but I don’t think this really works. Or at least it doesn’t for me…

monster movies and ego bags

I saw Pacific Rim tonight, and it was pretty god-awful. Acting was horrible, just horrible. The visuals were okay, but overall just a pretty stale experience. But irregardless of that, it still accomplished what I was hoping it would. Movies are a way to forget about myself for a couple hours. I’m not trapped in my usual thought systems. It’s one of the few times I’m really free. Or… at least not actively engaged in one of my ego illusions.

After I walk out of the theater something interesting happens. I’m in this odd state where I’m totally present. When I get in my car and drive home it’s a totally different experience. I’m so connected with my car in a way that I never usually am.

And eventually, I get to watch my ego systems come back online. I get to watch the ways in which they try to trap me. This usually leads to some pretty significant insights, and tonight was no exception.

I got this very clear picture of my ego. It is a master story weaver. And it’s story is contained within this bag.

small bag
Whenever I look at someone, especially someone who really troubles me, the ego holds that bag up to my face. As I look into it, I can see this story unfolding, and I usually jump right in. Latching onto this story and letting the ego pull me in and wrap me up inside of it. At this point I no longer see the person. The only thing I can see is this story. The ego’s illusions.

Once the ego has trapped me, it does everything in its power to keep me in that story. To feed off me.

The course does a really good job of training you how to disentangle yourself, and back out of this bag. The ego fights with everything it has to prevent this. The last post I made is a perfect illustration. As I started to realize that this bag, this story wasn’t real, the ego attacked me with a different story. One of loneliness. Trying to pull me back inside.

Now that I’ve started to spend more time outside of this bag, I’m getting a taste of a different reality. I think this is what the course refers to as the Holy Spirit. If we were fish, it’s like the water that we swim in. It’s everywhere, underlying everything. We just can’t see it when we’re caught in those bags. And I think people can sense when others are connected with it, but I think we are misguided in our pursuit of it. We see it as being “over there”, like that person has a hold on it. So we flock to gurus, priests, whomever, and ask them to show us. But what we don’t see is that we all have the same access. The water they are swimming in is the same that we are. We just need to pull ourselves out of that bag, and it’s only a matter of time before we naturally realize this ourselves.

This realization puts some of what I read a while ago into a new light. Actually, it’s putting almost everything I’ve read into a new light, so I’ll just highlight a few things.

Chapter 4, section 1 “right teaching and right learning”, paragraph 8, sentence 5

“You are part of reality, which stands unchanged beyond the reach of your ego but within easy reach of spirit. When you are afraid, be still and know that God is real”.

Yup. There is a reality that exists outside of that bag, and the ego can’t touch it. And the way to access it is to be still, see that the story is an illusion, and slowly back out of the bag to embrace what is real… God.

“God is inevitable, and you cannot avoid him any more than he can avoid you.”

This is what I’ve seen. If you dissolve that bag, your reunification with God is inevitable.

“The ego is afraid of the spirit’s joy, because once you have experienced it you will withdraw all protection from the ego, and become totally without investment in fear.”

Yuppppp. Once you’re out of that bag, it becomes a lot less appealing to go back in it. Especially after you’ve tasted the divine.

“Leave it behind! Do not listen to it and do not preserve it. Release yourself and release others.”

When I’m able to look at someone while residing in this holy space, outside of the ego’s bag, there is nothing but pure joy and love. It doesn’t matter who it is. My heart opens for all. And for those that I’ve resented, hated, it’s like I’m seeing them for the first time.

All uncertainty comes from the belief that you are under the coercion of judgment.

Chapter 3, section VI. “Judgment and the Authority Problem” paragraph 3, sentence 4:
“All uncertainty comes from the belief that you are under the coercion of judgment.”

In the last couple posts I’ve been talking about how we perceive ourselves as gods, able to create our realities even when disconnected from the divine.

Yet we also fear judgement.

This creates a problem for the logic center of my mind. Both X and Y can’t be true. If I was able to create my reality as I see fit, I wouldn’t also fear judgment. So since I fear judgment, that means that I can’t actually create my reality. So if I assume that I can’t create reality, does that mean the fear of judgment also goes away?

When I ask myself this it totally does. Reality can only be accessed when connected with the divine. When this connection is established, the truth is known. It is certain. The illusion of someone else’s judgment doesn’t matter.