In Praise of Travel

Apollo’s Victory, Vieux Bassin, Honfleur, France, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved

Traveling the wide world can certainly be an eye opener, to expose one to new ideas, new ways of doing things and to beautiful sights.  Yet what is most important here is the willingness, the openness, to experience these ideas, activities and beauty.  Further, with this willingness and openness, we can experience new ideas, activities and beauty wherever we are, and in this very moment.

The Teachings Point Toward Unity

Moonrise Pine – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2012, All Rights Reserved

The stated purpose of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is, “to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher” (Preface, How It Came into Being).  ACIM is a Course and often refers to its curriculum.  From many passages in ACIM, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is the Internal Teacher, the Teacher to which the Course refers.  In one helpful example the Text says,  “Like any good teacher, the Holy Spirit knows more than you do now, but He teaches only to make you equal with Him” (T-6.V.1).

In A Course of Love (ACOL), the purpose is, “rather than being one of finding meaning, is one of coming to know through relationship. It is in coming to know through relationship that you come to know your Self” (C:27.3).  ACOL speaks often of the Unity of Self and the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  In the Treatise on the Personal Self it says, “But again let me remind you that the Holy Spirit is not other than who you are but an aspect of who you are and Who God Is”  (T3:17.6).

As we can easily see, while the approaches may be different, the two Courses have very similar purposes.  Both seek to help people discover the presence of the Divine within themselves and within ALL.  Through learning, exercises, observation, Self-reflection, being and revelation they both use the familiar to point us toward the previously unseen, toward the Unity of God as the Infinite inclusive whole, of which Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Self (you, me and all of us), as well as all of creation, each seem to be a part… but also the whole.

I have heard it said that some Christians have such reverence toward scripture that, despite the commandment not to worship idols, they almost treat the Bible as the fourth member of the trinity.  I think that much the same can be said of ACIM and ACOL students.  Like many religious groups, sometimes ACIM and ACOL students and teachers, focusing upon differences and comparisons, lose sight of all that they have in common.  At such times I wonder if aren’t mostly caught up again in ego and illusion, forgetting to look in the direction the Courses point out for us.  There is a helpful analogy/exercise from Zen Buddhism in which we should imagine someone pointing with a finger toward the moon. This is to remind us that the teaching (the finger) is not the Truth (the moon), it is merely something familiar to point the way toward something that seems unfamiliar in our current state of being. The language and other symbols used within limited consciousness are merely fingers pointing toward the Infinite/Eternal/Truth.

Before the Beginning…

Haystack Walk, Canon Beach, Oregon, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2012, All Rights Reserved

True Unity is infinite and eternal,
without limitation of any kind
and therefore beyond measurement,
without beginning or ending.

Before the beginning
of the first universe
of matter-energy and space-time
there was only Unity.

Within the finite universe
of matter-energy-space-time (MEST)
the infinite and eternal
seems impossible.

Thus within MEST
permanence and continuity
likewise seems impossible
for all matter and energy
have boundaries
where they start and stop
in space and time.

To perceive within
the finite universe,
where everything is limited,
consciousness also
must limit itself.

Limited consciousness,
by definition,
is not fully conscious
but only aware
within a part of space
during a portion of time.

From this limited perspective
impermanence and discontinuity
seem to make loss possible
and thus fear is born.

With loss
comes grief,
pain
and death.

Yet, how can
infinite and
eternal Unity
really become divided
and separated?

That which seemed
to create the impossible
and become impossible itself
beyond all appearances
is still as it always
was, is and will be.

To think that we can have
a relationship outside
of Love
is an illusions,
a fantasy
because the purpose
of relationship
IS Unity.

Not only does the Truth set us free,
understanding Truth
allows us to realize
that the untrue
is a momentary
and minuscule
illusion of existence
which was not,
is not
and never will be.

Inside-Out and Backwards

The Peace That Transcends Human Understanding, Christmas Ship Performance, Kirkland, Washington, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2016, All Rights Reserved

As humans, I believe we see the world somewhat inside-out and backwards.  We tend to conceive of inside as essentially emptiness and at the same time we perceive a vast “reality” outside.

When Jesus proposed the radical idea that the Kingdom of Heaven was within us, I believe he was trying to turn around the way we see ourselves and the world.  If the ultimate reality of the infinite and eternal is within us, then the external world is something less, something temporal and finite.

Unity With Enmity is a Paradox!

Morning Rose, Kirkland, Washington, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2005, All Rights Reserved

Love involves closeness,
which is an impulse toward unity.
So how do we love All,
even our enemies?
How can love become close
to someone who repels us and others?

Love also involves looking
beyond mere appearances
for the true, the essential, the eternal.
Love beholds
the apparent enemy
and sees the ultimate friend within.

Love draws close
to the love within the other
until eventually
the other beholds their own truth.
Thus is enmity
dispelled by unity.

 

New Life’s Resolution

Monet’s Water Lilly, Giverny, France, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright 2016, All Right Reserved

Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, why not a New Life’s Resolution or a New Resolution of Life?

Find Unity…
with God;
with all people;
with all beings;
with all fauna and flora;
with the Earth;
with all things (sub-atomic through universal in size);
in all arrangements;
in all relationships;
in all thoughts;
in all actions;
in all events;
at all times;
regardless of any apparent loss for, or damage to, self;
regardless of insults received;
regardless of persecution;
regardless of any apparent circumstances or reasons to the contrary.

Virtuality – Virtual Reality

Digital Image – Engagement Ring Eclipse, Madras, Oregon, August 21, 2017, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2017, All Rights Reserved

In pursuit of the realization of Spirit, let us consider the digital world.  When we watch a movie these days we may be moved to tears or even become awestruck.  Yet, have we considered that what is on the screen is probably based solely upon combinations, arrangements and sequences of zeros (0s) and ones (1s).  These two digits, representing off and on, nothing and something, can be processed by computers to create an illusion so thorough that it may seem like a virtual reality.

This brings up some questions for me.  Given the convincing nature of these illusions, would it be possible to create an illusionary reality that we could not distinguish from the physical/material world that we think of as real?  What if this has already been done?  Could it be that the physical/material world actually is such an illusion?  If we are not able to distinguish between virtuality (virtual reality) and reality, how can we say which is which?  What if the seeming shades of gray and apparent shades of meaning we perceive in the world really just come down to 0s and 1s at a subatomic level?  We perceive all sorts of objects, spaces, energies, etc. yet at its most fundamental level, what if it is an illusion not much different than a superb movie or virtual reality game?  What if all the apparent things, circumstances and event are just combinations, arrangements and sequences of: “thing” (like some ultimate subatomic energy-particle) and “no-thing” (space or void).  That sounds a lot like ones and zeros to me.

Relationships

Anticipating a Waterway Adventure, Venice, Italy, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2009, All Rights Reserved

It appears that we have made false distinctions with regard to relationships so that we believe in and see a variety of relationships when if truth there is only one.  Relationship is connection and the essence of connecting is love.  Love is the connector, the connection and the connected.  Each relationship is a reflection of Unity, the relationship of All with All.  When the purpose of relationship is unity, this relationship is a Holy Relationship.  It is Holy because it represents a decision for unity, the oneness of All.  When the purpose of some supposed “relationship” is otherwise, it is an illusion because separation of any sort is not connection, love and/or unity.  These illusions give the impression of degrees of connection and kinds of relationships.

Balance in Unity

Riding Through the Light, Canon Beach, Oregon, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2012, All Rights Reserved

In reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, he speaks of the unity of faith and obedience.  He says, “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes” ( ibid. Kindle location 890).  Obviously, this works into the debate between the faith and works as the source of salvation.  Works (external action) without faith (internal belief) are empty (without true meaning) and mechanical.  Yet, faith without works is a lie, an illusionary mental construct that refuses to extend beyond the “self”.

Bonhoeffer talks about taking the first step, performing some action of which we are capable, with the intention of seeking faith.  He says, “we can only take this step aright if we fix our eyes not on the work we do, but on the word with which Jesus calls us to do it” (ibid. location 932).  It seems clear that this should be the motivation for all my actions.

He envisions Jesus telling us, “First obey, perform the external work, renounce your attachments, give up the obstacles which separate you from the will of God. Do not say you have not got faith. You will not have it so long as you persist in disobedience and refuse to take the first step. Neither must you say that you have faith, and therefore there is no need for you to take the first step. You have not got faith so long as and because you will not take the first step but become hardened in your unbelief under the guise of humble faith” (ibid. locations 948-952).

When we refuse the will of God, we are disobedient.  This is just as true when we try to justify our inaction by professing a lack of faith or even that we have no precise understanding of God’s will.  We fail to understand God’s will when we consciously or unconsciously refuse to attempt the good works we instinctively know are required of us.  We also fail when we are focused upon physical things, worldly circumstances, actions and experiences; refusing to focus instead upon Love, Unity and Spirit. Such refusals are central to the ego, the small self that sees itself as essentially separate from God, from humanity and from the universe.  This is true to such a degree because refusal to be inclusive is central to separation and central to the separation inherent in dualities like: internal and external; spiritual and physical; love and fear; and God and self.

The word religion comes from “re” meaning again and “ligare” meaning to bind (see Online Etymology Dictionary).  In my usage, I have blended the two roots of the word.  I have used “re” from the ancient etymology and blended it with “religare” from the more modern etymology.  Ligare is also the root of the word ligament, the connective tissue that binds together bone to bone or bone to muscle.  I believe this etymology is helpful in understanding the role of religion to bind All (God, humanity, creation) back together again.  Thus the purpose of Christianity, of obediently and faithfully following Christ, is Unity.  As Christ was one with the Father and the Spirit, we are called to this Unity through Him (Christ).

In 1 Thessalonians Paul advises the church about Christian Living saying, “Rejoice at all times.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…” (5:16-18).  By rejoicing about life, by constantly seeking to be close to Spirit, and by thankfulness, we learn, Joy, Unity, gratitude and Love.  If this is academic, it is almost unless.  It is in the interplay between action and faith, lived out in this way that we understand the power of the early Church in changing lives, developing faith and gaining the strength to truly become a Christian, a person who genuinely follows Jesus.

Moving Beyond Blaming and Complaining – Part II, Releasing Grievances and Embracing the Light

Mid Summer Morning, Mazama Ridge, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2017, All Rights Reserved

The prior post on this topic examined the importance of freeing ourselves from belief in environmental causation as well as the value of replacing it with an understanding of personal causation as an alternative to blaming and complaining.  It also pointed out that this shift is a prerequisite to the advantages of a growth mindset and to a proactive orientation, which are both so critical to learning, improvement and effectiveness.  On an interpersonal level, accepting responsibility for our decisions, choices and actions creates a firm foundation for connecting with others.  If you have not already seen the prior post, Part I of this topic is available here.

The purpose of this post is to extend our understanding of the consequences of blaming and complaining, examining the thought system from which these arise, and finally exploring beyond such thoughts and behavior.  First, let’s talk about the effects of perceiving distance and difference between self and others.  Such distance, or separation, confirms the appearance that the small self-concept (or ego) is not alike to others.  This apparent separation tends to increase with each instance of blaming and complaining.  Eventually, lacking some mitigating influence, any conceptions of connection, relation and unity fade and the individual feels increasingly isolated, angry, fearful, sad and apathetic.  Interestingly, despite the show of ego arrogance and superiority, blaming and complaining are actually a mask to hide self-perceptions of insecurity and inadequacy.

As such behavior becomes more chronic, the grievances for our perceived injuries become increasingly central to our views.  At the same time, to hold onto grievances or complaints, we also must hold onto victimization and there is an increasing investment in maintaining the injury or related conditions.  To continue to blame requires an injury (or undesirable condition) of some sort, otherwise at some point we would have no further excuse for continuing to blame and complain.  Also, we must deceive ourselves and others about the self-continuance of the “injury”.  Ironically, to maintain a semblance of “integrity”, since we are already deceiving others, we deceive ourselves by disguising our efforts to maintain the injury, leaving us still trying to harvest some reward for the wrong that was “done to us”.  If we saw our own role in this, we would need to move on in health toward the future, instead of holding onto the past.  However, by becoming unaware of the connection between our own participation in the injury/condition we can pretend to only be aware of our injury and victimization.

Thus, holding onto grievances is associated with holding onto injury, holding onto self-deception as well as disguising and hiding our actions from others and ourselves.  Another aspect of this tangle is that we use the apparent injury as an excuse and justification for harming others through blame, slanderous complaint and even revenge.  When we are criticized, we have a ready excuse: we were victimized.  As this dwindling spiral continues, we may also develop a conclusive thought that is central to reconciling the apparent actions and motivations of the perceived victimizer(s) as well as the manner in which our own behavior is thus excused.  For example we might compute that “all __________ (fill in the blank with a group, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.) are just out to __________ (fill the blank with some injurious action).”  For example, “all men are just trying to take women for all they can”.  With a conclusion like this accepted as truth, our prejudice, sexism, bigotry, discrimination or intolerance, etc. seem justifiable to us.

Unconsciousness is vital to maintaining this whole deception.  To summarize this, first we must be unaware of the true humanity (good and bad) of the perceived victimizer, otherwise we would need to dismiss our grievances.  If the perceived victimizer were seen as just another human with good and bad points, much like ourselves, it would be very hard to continue to hold onto a grudge.  Second, we must hide our own involvement (to whatever degree) in the victimization, otherwise we would be a participant, not purely a victim.  Thirdly, we must deny our ability to determine our own reactions; despite our protests to the contrary, our reactions are not automatic effects of the perceived injury but are instead decisions and choices we make ourselves.  Fourth, we must disguise our role in maintaining the injury, otherwise, to that extent, the injury (or at least its continuance) would be a result of our own actions.  Fifth, we must hide the inherent falseness of our conclusion or computation about the group in which we see the victimizer (as outlined in the preceding paragraph); since, at the least, all generalities are inaccurate to the extent of their generality.  Sixth, we must deny or justify the destructive results of our reactions.  Finally, we must also rationalize away the mechanisms we use to put responsibility for all of this upon the perceived victimizer.  At each of these steps, our self-deception results in reduced awareness of both the reality of the “other” as well as ourselves and, to some degree, the rest of the world; as we carry out this pretense we become increasingly unconscious and hence more broadly ineffective at creating positive effects and results.

Thus, the more wrapped up in this “house of cards” we become, the less we understand others and ourselves.  In this, we are going through a negative learning curve; meaning that we are learning something counter-productive.  To the extent to which we buy into the idea that we have no choice or responsibility, to the extent that we see the stimulus as causing the response… to this extent we see ourselves and others as things or objects.  From that perspective, we tend to see people, including ourselves, as programmed by experiences and enslaved by others.  By our belief in the power of others and the environment to cause us harm, we become effects, giving over our power to those whom we blame.  In these self-imposed limitations we lose sight of our capacities: to perceive compassionately, to choose, to determine our own response, to make the present moment a break from the cause-effect-cause chain of time and we even lose sight of our capacity to create something new and better.

The false ideas we come to accept, obscure the truth of our own humanity and that of those around us.  When this is wide-spread enough, institutions such as government, education, church etc. tend to begin reflecting these consensus misconceptions.  Officials in such institutions, failing to appreciate the truth, use alternative “truths”, which are really lies, to support the exploitation of their position and the exploitation of others.  Instead of working at the communal benefit that are the mission of their offices, they instead attempt to gain advantages for themselves.  Broadly practiced, this corruption becomes the “norm”, it becomes almost expected, and society and civilization begin down a dwindling spiral.  Unfortunately, this deterioration is alarmingly close to the present-day world.

So how does one recover; how does one move beyond this?  What is involved?  How could we recover as a society?  If our mistakes were turning away from the truth, then perhaps we need to turn back and contemplate the Truth which preceded our errors.  First, let’s look at which direction the all-too-common false consensus of “other-responsibility” takes us.  Then, let’s think about what lies back in the opposite direction.  Blaming and complaining are based upon the idea that others are responsible for our condition, for our injuries and perhaps for the world, and these views are opposed to responsibility and proactivity.  Finding others responsible for us is really just a form of non-responsibility disguised as judgement and condemnation.  This is not responsibility but instead is damaging irresponsibility.  So, having identified the truth of responsibility as the direction of our quest for recovery, let us deliberate on this a bit.

The etymology of the word responsibility is from the Latin word “respons” meaning to answer, often to answer in return (Google Dictionary).  Simply stated, when we create something or when we take an action (good or bad), responsibility is the willingness to answer to others in response to our work or actions.  Our response or answer is an acknowledgement of truth, an owning up to what we have done, what we have made and the results of our work.  Sometimes we are proud of our actions… and sometimes not so much.  When we are not proud, our health and that of the community requires doing all we reasonably can to set things right.  In this case, to be able to set things right requires that we unflinchingly examine our errors, perhaps with the help of others.  It is not helpful or responsible to gloss over this.  At the same time, it is also not helpful for us to view others as less than responsible themselves.  People make mistakes and there is no more value in beating up ourselves than there is to our beating up others for their mistakes, or our perceptions of their mistakes.  What IS helpful is in both cases is to encourage responsibility.

While it may sound odd, even where multiple people were involved in an action or work, each can benefit from taking full responsibility.  Regardless of the actions or involvements of others, one benefits from considering how one’s own thoughts, feelings, words, silences, actions and inactions have influenced the outcome.  Having some measure of self-responsibility, one can move forward in responding positively to the situation.  Accepting responsibility is the beginning of healing and even of proactivity, that number one habit of effectiveness (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

I am responsible for myself and my own condition.  Even if others have hurt me or otherwise tried to lessen me, thoughts about such are only a potential distraction from what I can change about myself, my thoughts, feelings, action and reactions.  I have always had the freedom to choose how I respond to the actions, or inactions, of others.  It is unlikely that anyone else is going pick me up and set me about doing something helpful.  Even if my parents, spouse, significant other or friends are willing and able to do so, in the end it will still come down to me learning to care about myself and others to a sufficient degree to really take ownership.  To become proactive is to move beyond reactivity, even beyond responsible reactions.  The proactive individual does not react to others or even to wait for others.  Proactivity means extending responsibility at our own initiative

I can choose to be responsible for myself and I can act responsibly toward others.  This is just as true in this moment and it has always been.  Nothing in the past, not my suffering, nor my mistakes or those of others, changes this fact.  Anything that might tend to make me think otherwise is purely self-deception and illusion.  I can complain about the cumulative effect of the pain I have experienced and the emotional baggage I find myself carrying.  I can blame others, pity myself or see myself as permanently damaged.  None of these thoughts will change the facts about the present moment.  I can choose to continue walking down the same path over and over again or I can change my mind and think differently.  This is the miracle moment where I can take back the power I have been misplacing elsewhere in my blaming of others, circumstances and/or fate.  Accepting my power of choice and action is the decisive path to Truth and to Life.

In the end, if I have not really been harmed by others but have only seemed to have been harmed by the false thoughts and decisions I have made, then I have not really been harmed at all.  With awareness of them, any decision I have made can be changed and any choice can be reconsidered.  Despite appearances to the contrary, since I have not really been harmed, on some level I must still be just as I was originally created.  This also means that the same is equally as true of others.  There is no reason to dwell upon the misguided actions of others nor the false judgements they made about me or anyone else.  Likewise there is no reason for me to continue myself in misguided directions.  While the actions of the past seemed to take place on a physical/material level, no real harm befell me.  The apparent value of hanging onto my grievances toward others is deception, trying to make myself feel right and to make them to feel wrong; trying to gain sympathy and trying desperately to hide my complicity in crafting my grievances and in formulating the subsequent problems and conditions.

Similarly, if others are likewise responsible for their own conditions, any harm I may have appeared to do to them is also false.  I can be free of my burden of guilt for my transgressions at the moment I release my own deceptions of the “justified” blame I have held toward others.  It truth, we are all guiltless children of our Creator.  This is forgiveness on a radical level; I can let go of the whole mess.  While amends might be helpful, especially in demonstrating the value of this, it is not necessary that anyone agree with me or to say they forgive me.  It is enough that I take the first step and continue to proceed down this path of honesty.

If my brother and sister humans were not really responsible for any harm to me and if I was not really to blame for any harm to them, then how wonderfully blessed is the forgiveness that releases these burdens from all of us!  For a while I might have thought that life was less than Eden and that the Creator of this existence had surely let me down, but now I see that I was blessedly mistaken.  Indeed, life is breathtakingly wonderful and I can see that this is also the path to the freedom of Love.  We ARE Love walking lovingly through the Garden toward Love.

In Love we were created and in the bizarre quest of trying to find something better than infinite and eternal Love, we lead ourselves down a false path toward pride, exclusive control, separation, division, disunity and darkness.  Yet I chose this path myself and I too often reenacted this initial decision, thinking that the burden of shame was too great to turn around and journey back home, indeed forgetting from where I had come and almost certain that I did not deserve to be accepted back anyway.  In pursuit of exclusive control and ownership, I needed to believe in and value separation from others and to do so I needed to hide my “fall from grace” from myself and from All.  This win-lose pursuit, the hiding and the coverup attempts to prop up myself and run down others is the ego mindset.  To blame others, I needed to hide the truth and the choice to do so left me seemingly unaware of these choices I had made and unaware that I was continuing to make the same choices automatically and beyond my awareness.  On some level, I knew that if I looked honestly upon my own choices, the self-deception would unravel and blaming others would be untenable.  Further, if I was not separate from, and competing with others, I could not have exclusive control or ownership “just for myself”.  So I maintained the sham and made the best of my winnings, at least, I did so when I was not all-to-often losing instead.

While I held onto these grievances, for the “harm that had been done to me”, fear was my consistent companion.  Despite my egotistical protests to the contrary, I was afraid of others, afraid of God and even afraid of myself.  Believing I had betrayed the trust of others, of my Creator and betrayed the truth of my Self as God created me, I was thus untrusting and all of this evidence just further pointed out my untrustworthiness.  Yet, what a burden… a burden of deception, lies, shame, guilt, blame, make-wrong, victimizing, victimization, grief, sickness, ailments and disability and desperation… I can release.  These were, after all, my choices all along.  The unconsciousness, in which I blanketed my choices, is now visible to me and thus I have regained consciousness of who I really AM.  The light of consciousness can set us free.  Recognizing the divinity that God placed in me, I am likewise aware of this divine spark in everyone.  Thus I greet you; Namaste I say to you; as the divine in me bows in reverence and awe to the beautiful divinity in your heart, in the center of your essence.

This awareness… and reverence… and awe… this is love’s grateful response to Love.  This is the dialog of Creator to creation, and returning to its Source.  Having chosen to turn away from the Light in the past, this process of self-honesty I have outlined is the remedy for self-deception; it is the returning path of truth, forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.  In the end, our return Home… our return to Eden… our return to Heaven… is a return to Unity where Father, Son, Spirit and Creation are All One.