Riding the Wave of Fear

kayaksurf

 

The other day while kayaking on the North Shore, I hit a particularly rough patch of surf by accident. I had been distracted with the sunset and enjoying some quiet evening reflection and drifted farther from shore than I usually go. On the way back to my launch spot, I encountered some pretty large waves, at least I considered them rather large to be taking on in an inflatable kayak, even one that was ocean rated. My heart began racing and I felt a panic attack coming. Realizing the need to remain calm under the circumstances, I did a quick mental inventory. I asked myself, “What are you really afraid of here?” I evaluated the surf and determined that I would feel confident swimming in it and I also felt confident in my ability to release myself from the kayak, should I topple, therefor my anxiety to the situation was a little exaggerated. I decided after further evaluation that the weight of the new anchor in my kayak made me feel a little less certain of my ability to steer the kayak and how evenly distributed my weight was and therefore maybe, I was afraid of toppling over. Further evaluation still, revealed that I was carrying all the cargo for me and the kids (Who were in other water craft behind me and I had successfully steered clear of the surf I was currently contending with) and I was afraid of losing the cargo. Once I recognized that losing cargo if I toppled was my actual fear, I realized my response was over inflated and disproportionate to my actual fear. Since I also knew that tackling the waves while relaxed was my best bet, I immediately relaxed and actually found enjoyment in kayak surfing, it was actually quite exhilarating and fun and I have since gone back with a lighter load with the intention of surfing some waves in the kayak!

While this story is not something you encounter everyday, I think it gives a clear example of how we can reframe our fears in every day circumstances. It becomes clear through my story above, that my anxiety was coming from the fact that my body’s fear reaction was not congruent with the actual situation. Once I realized I felt confident in my ability to swim through the waves, the fear for my life response my body was trying to let take over became inflated, it lost power over me and in doing so it left room for me to find incredible enjoyment in the situation at hand. Had I not conquered that fear, in the exact moment it was happening,  the tension response in my body would have rendered me useless in navigating the waves and I would have missed out on an exhilarating experience I intend to turn into some kind of hobby!

Ryan Holiday, in his book, The Obstacle is the Way, invites us to take a look at all of our fears with this same introspection I demonstrated in the story above.  The Obstacle is about following the yellow brick road and conquering your fears. When we practice this daily, it brings presence and focus in the Now, the only moment we actually have any control over. It also prepares us to handle skillfully the more life threatening things that may actually come our way through practice and honing in our own tendencies to judge ourselves or be overly critical in our assessment of our abilities. When we learn to ask ourselves what is the worst that can happen and is that a risk I am willing to take ? What is the best that can happen? Is that a chance I am willing to take? What am I really afraid of in this situation? Do I have any choices here?

When we quickly get caught up in life’s currents, often times we no longer have the choice to not be present. The power of choice is always in the present moment. You can continue pretending (denial) that you are caught in the wave and hope for the best, you can jump right through it and see how you come out on the other side or you can embrace it and ride it and let it take you where it may and enjoy the ride. I chose to ride the wave and the ride was well worth the fear I had to conquer!

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Healing as Release from Fear

 

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Photo Source

This post is part of a series entitled: Reflections from a Course in Miracles

Let’s review a few terms in the context of my interpretation before we dive into this chapter.

Thus far, we have learned Atonement, in the archaic, non-religious use of the word, is defined as reconciliation or agreement. In theological studies, the word is used  do describe reconciliation with God for sins, making amends. Since I am agnostic, I have chosen to use the word in the archaic sense for my interpretation of ACIM.

This chapter opens with the emphasis on miracles as the means to reconciling with the truth (That is we are not separate from God or Jesus Christ) If you are new to this series, I highly recommend you go back to this post, for a deeper understanding of my interpretation of God and Jesus Christ from an agnostic perspective. My intent is not to discount God or Jesus Christ in this interpretation of ACIM, but rather my interpretation seeks to make the text more accessible, particularly to those who are not Christian. I feel the book is such a valuable tool in my spirituality practice, even though I do not believe in God (in the traditional sense). If you are religious, I invite you to explore the text with me anyway, as I would love to share an open dialogue with opposing view points.

Let is then understand atonement as the correction of any error (those ordinarily defined as “Sin”) with an additional understanding that the text makes it very clear that there are no such “Sins” that make you any less than an equal to God, I his eyes.

This chapter begins by telling us our focus is shifting to healing now. Miracles are the mechanism. We have already learned in previous chapter that Forgiveness and Gratitude are miracles. The goal for miracles is to release fear and doubt (and any understanding that we are less than perfect already). The text also reminds us once again that miracles are not stratified and a miracle is a miracle, regardless of how big or small, they are all equally impressive and serve to erase the mistake of believing anything other than perfection and unconditional love.

In the last post, we learned that the body is the temple and intuition (inner voice, god-voice, spirits, angels, guides, aliens, ghosts etc) is the altar, housed inside the “Temple.”

We are reminded that spirit, created in the likeness of God is already perfect. The spirit is perfect and the body is nothing more than the container, therefor, it is the mind that fabricates error. (in believing we are not perfect). Atonement seeks to realign this belief and make the body-min-spirit connection congruent.

We learn that all sickness is “not-right-mindedness” as in the mind is creating a false belief. All sickness than is created in the mind through incorrect belief. It is this incongruence the miracle seeks to correct and in essence bring about the final miracle of atonement(reconciliation with ourselves and God).

The body, we learn does not create illness, the body is nothing more than the container and all levels of correction should begin with the mind because error can only be corrected on the level in which it occurred. So, we cannot perform a miracle on the physical level, it must be performed on the mental level (In the mind).

Since we learned already that miracles can be nothing more than a sincere apology, we know now that the apology must come from the heart and be sincere or it cannot have the same efficacy.

Anytime there is fear involved, it is not a miracle. The entire aim of the miracle, as we have already learned, is to eliminate fear and increase congruence (through atonement).

If you are enjoying these posts, please leave a comment and let me know what you like and don’t like about them. It is very time consuming to post my interpretation of this lengthy course and your feedback is essential to ensure I am giving you what you want to read. I value your input and look forward to more open dialogue.

I have not receive much feedback on looking at this course from an agnostic perspective, what are your thoughts? Are you able to follow along if you are Religious? How about if you are not? My intent is to make this text more accessible, your feedback is greatly appreciated and gives me the drive to continue with these posts.

The Altar Of God

This post is part of a series of posts entitled: Reflections from a Course in Miracles.

Chapter II, Section III The Altar of God

We have already learned that Atonement, in ACIM, in my interpretation, is defined as the correction of error. The error ACIM speaks of is the separation. The separation is the belief that we are separate from one another, God and perfection. Separation defines the lies of the ego.

We learn that our body is our temple. However, we also learn that the body is not really a structure at all and its beauty can only be found at the altar. Our inner voice, intuition, voice of God, Spirit, Angels, Guides, Ghosts, Aliens, whatever you believe is the source of your truth and the answer to your prayers and meditations is where we find our altar. (See this post for more information about my interpretations of this text.)

“It’s true holiness lies at the inner altar around which the structure is built. The emphasis on beautiful structures is a sign of the fear of atonement and unwillingness to reach the altar itself. The real beauty of the temple cannot be seen with the physical eye. Spiritual sight, on the other hand, cannot see the structure at all because it is perfect vision. It can, however, see the altar, with perfect clarity”

I have three sons, all three are teen/young adult in age and two of their girlfriends also currently live in my home. I am constantly trying to get these kids to meditate. It is a losing battle. I am often amused at the lengths they will go to in order to keep from being alone with their own thoughts.  There is a TV or music on in every room. They cannot drive until they have put music on. They even take a floating speaker along when we kayak and paddle board.

I revel in the silence when I paddle. I love the quiet at the top of the mountain, I feel like I can see the whole world. I have learned to love listening to the sound of my breath, The silence refreshes me. Only after I learned to embrace the quiet did I find my inner voice.

When I read the quote from ACIM, above, I think it speaks to this, our fear of finding the answers inside, our fear of silence, our need to constantly distract ourselves. I recently described a night when the power went out in my neighborhood and how I watched relationships reform, because people had nothing to distract them from the people they were sitting next to. We always have our faces in our phones, computers, TVs and video games. We have not only forgotten how to interact with one another, but more importantly, we have forgotten how to have a relationship to ourselves and listen to that quiet knowledge we all possess on the inside.

“Before the separation, the mind was invulnerable to fear, because fear did not exist. Both the separation and the fear are mis-creations that must be undone for the restoration of the temple, and for the opening of the altar to receive the Atonement. This heals the separation by placing within you the one effective defense against all separation thoughts and you perfectly invulnerable.”

Meditate! Get Quiet, Listen to your inner guidance. Trust your gut, Heed your intuition. The more you practice in the silence, the more you will be guided because you are paying attention. The voice is always there, our inner guidance is an eternal fountain of truth that is always available for us to drink from. When we learn how it speaks, when we learn its quiet, gentle, thoughtful ways, we learn the difference between the voice of intuition and the voice of our ego. Once we learn the difference, we begin to recognize that it is always available to us, when we listen. Even when the ego is screaming, we learn to recognize the quiet, steady guidance of that guidance, even amongst all of the noise. Once you arrive at this place, you are no longer vulnerable to lies and fear because the source of all knowledge is available to you and you become more and more confident in your ability to access the fountain of knowledge within you, your inner altar is always available and you do not need ANYTHING external from you in order to access it.

We have all heard that some people need to first see or actually hit rock bottom before they turn their lives around. Everyone has different levels of hell they are willing to go through to protect what they value and not everyone values healthy things.

“Tolerance for pain may be high, eventually, everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way”

We all have choices. We get to choose what we value. We get to choose what our rock bottom is. We also choose to be silent or distracted. But, this text tells us that we will all reach a point where we have had enough and start making different choices. Once we learn that we have an internal fountain of joy and truth and love inside ourselves, we becoming increasingly intolerant of the things that cause us pain, which we used to accept pretty regularly. Like taking vitamin C at the first sign of a cold, we can likewise find respite inside ourselves, at the inner fountain, when spiritual pain threatens to weaken our immune system. Once you learn how good it can feel to find that inner source of knowledge, the smallest irritant will prompt us to look within.

We are here on earth to learn to ignore all the distractions, to follow our inner guiding light, to share that light with others and to create that light in our own artistic way, whatever that way is. Each and everyone of us has a gift to share with the world, it is only fear and separation from our source of power that keeps us from success.

Relating to my teen

My 16 year old son and I were talking about something today and I was trying to make my perspective clear. He stopped me and said “I know mom, I get it, watch this video game trailer and you will see that I know what you are talking about.”

I may want to play this game myself

The Atonement as Defense

Personal-factors-in-consumer-decision-making

This post is part of a series entitled: Reflections from a Course in Miracles. If you are new to the series, you may find it very helpful to go to this post to understand a few important assumptions that define many of my spiritual beliefs and my interpretation of some of the terms in ACIM.

Chapter II The Separation and the Atonement Part II The Atonement as Defense

If we work with the assumption of Jesus Christ as our own intuitive voice, we open this section with Jesus telling us that we are capable of doing anything he asks us to do.

“You can do anything I ask. I have asked you to perform miracles and have made it clear that miracles are natural, corrective, healing and universal”

We have to believe in the miracle in order for it to work.

Here we also learn that anything that is not Godly, cannot harm us.

The text also defines the proper use of denial-that is to correct error, rather than to hide anything, it is a correction, not a concealment.

“It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you”

True denial , then, as is defined above corrects all error, and brings all false ideals into the light of truth. This is indeed a powerfully protective device, as described, because this means anything that is not love based (assuming God is love) cannot harm us.

“You can and should deny any belief that error can hurt you.”

Remember, that we are perfection and everything we create is perfection. There are no errors. There are no mistakes. Everything is as it should be.

This chapter also reminds us that we should be cognizant of what we treasure because we automatically defend our treasures. This reminds us to define our values. I have always been a proponent of this. When you know what you value, it makes all of your decisions much easier. When you know what your goals are, each and every choice comes down to one decision, does it support your goals and values or not, this should easily help you decide which decision to make. Companies use this all the time, it is why it is important to have defined mission, vision and values, because they become your beacons, your GPS, they guide you in the right direction and help you make choices easily.

“Everyone defends his treasure and will do so automatically.. The real questions are, what do you treasure and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these questions and to bring them into all your actions, you will have little difficulty in clarifying the means. The means are available whenever you ask. You can, however, save time if you do not protract this step unduly. The correct focus will shorten it immeasurably.”

When we know what we want in life and what we value, we can more easily make decisions that support them. When we clearly define our own personal mission, vision and values, we begin to make the choices that make our dreams come true.

In this chapter, we learn more about the Atonement, it is an act of Love. Love then can only be used as part of the truth and not as a weapon. Atonement was not necessary before we started to believe that we are separate from God, Separate from each other, Separate from the birds, the trees, the plants, the animals, and fish. Now, it is necessary for us to seek the truth because our Ego led us to believe that we were separate and not equal.

When we recognize and accept that we are co-creators of our own lives, we no longer need the atonement. Its lessons are only important as long as we believe that we are separate from each other, that we or any of God’s creations are imperfect and requires correction.

This chapter seeks to tell us that we are perfect and we have not made mistakes and nothing needs correction.  When we understand that time does not exist and we stop ruminating over our past mistakes, we will no longer have lessons to learn and therefor, they become unnecessary.

“The Atonement is the device by which you can free yourself from the past as you go ahead. It undoes your past errors, thus making it as unnecessary for you to keep retracing your steps without advancing to your return.

Finally, we learn here that in performing miracles, we protect ourselves, and others.

This reminds me of so many other training platforms I have seen. It is the “Learn One, Do One, Teach One” Philosophy. It is the core of programs such as alcoholics anonymous, once you learn the steps, you help others with the steps. Once you learn the way, you share the way with others.

Origins of Separation

This post is part of a series entitled: Reflections from A Course in Miracles

This is the first post in Chapter 2 : The Separation and The Atonement

Earlier in the series, I posted some context to my beliefs you may find helpful to review if you are new to the series.

If we believe God to be that first, original strand of DNA as we approach this chapter we see that all of the power and perfection contained in the that first strand of DNA was passed along

In the creation, God extended Himself to his creations and imbued them with the same loving will to create

With this sentence we see that we have the desire to procreate and it is innate. But, along with the desire to extend our own genetics, by having children, creation should be thought of as creativity. Everything from the first tools, communication, literary compositions, music, science, medicine… is part of creation, inventors, scientists, artists are all creators in their own way.

From here, I needed to read and re-read the rest of paragraph one a few times to understand. At first, I thought it was saying that we cannot decide what to create and create it. I wanted to interpret this as the Law of Attraction was a false idea. However, after much reflection over the past week, I have decided that is not what it means at all.

I believe the distortion of reality is fear. Fear keeps us from bravely stepping into our lives and creating the life we want. Fear keeps us from acting, even if it is safe to do so.

The book refers to what we know of as the original sin, Adam listening to the lies of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. We know Eden to be Paradise, a place where everything is perfect and nothing is needed.  Unlike Eden, which is the picture of perfection, we are constantly grasping to make things different than they are. We constantly promise ourselves we will eat better, sleep better, exercise more, love more laugh more at some point in the future, when the conditions are perfect and the stars are aligned. What I believe this chapter seeks to teach us is that everything is exactly as it should be. Our lives are bringing us the perfect lessons on the perfect schedule, we only need to recognize this as fact to make it so.

“You do not have to continue to believe what is not true, unless you choose to do so. All that can literally disappear in the twinkling of an eye because it is merely a misperception.”

“It still remains within you, however, to extend as God extended HIs Spirit to you. In reality this is your only choice, because your free will was given you for your joy in creating the perfect.”

We are reminded then, that we are perfect and everything we create is also perfect. It is only when we choose to ignore that we and are circumstances are flawed in some way and that we must change them in order to enjoy our lives. Accordingly, this belief is false and therefore we are operating our lives with a false baseline.

“All fear is ultimately reducible to the basic misperception that you have the ability to usurp the power of God. Of course, you neither can nor have been able to do this.”

This means that when we learn to operate our lives and still enjoy our lives on the basis that everything is already perfect and we are right where we are supposed to be, to learn the lessons we have chosen to learn.

“The escape is brought about by your acceptance of the Atonement, which enables you to realize that your errors never really occurred.”

We have already learned atonement to be  reconciliation; agreement or making things more congruent. Therefor, it tells us that when we learn to see things as they are, not as we want them or expect them to be, we will be free of the trap of duality. This means we should let go of the idea that we need to change things to be happy, for our lives to be perfect.

To me, this sounds a whole lot like the practice of mindfulness and living in the moment, being present that is practiced by several religions and non-religious spiritual practices. The following sentence could be something written in any Buddhist or Hindu script.

“If a light is suddenly turned on while someone is dreaming a fearful dream, he may initially interpret the light itself as part of his dream and be afraid of it. However, when he awakens, the light is correctly perceived as the release from the dream, which is then lo longer accorded reality. This release does not depend on illusions. The knowledge that illuminates not only sets you free, but also shows you clearly that you are free.”

Finally, we are reminded that the purpose of miracles is to help us wake up to the atonement. There is no stratification of miracles, none have a larger magnitude than another. We already know that Forgiveness, Love and Gratitude are miracles and part of the atonement.

Disease, or illness is nothing more than some sort of external search for perfection or peace. Health is the realization that inner peace is found inside and will cure all illness which results from the idea that we are somehow lacking something outside ourselves.

“Health is inner peace. It enables you to remain unshaken by lack of love from without and capable, through your acceptance of miracles, of correcting the conditions proceeding from lack of love in others.

When we learn to recognize the healing attributes of forgiveness, love and gratitude, we become immune to the ill actions of others.

Banishing a critic

 

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As part of my mindfulness practice, I try to remain vigilant for my inner critic.  It never ceases to amaze me how critical I can be of myself, regardless of my successes.  The Serenity Prayer has always been an anchor for me,  helping me to sift through the critiques, learning to identify which are worthwhile lessons and which are useless to me and likely untrue.

This week was my father’s birthday. Calling home requires a steeling of my intestinal fortitude. Calling home requires me to be on my “A” game or risk tumbling backwards and losing miles of personal and spiritual growth gained from where  I once came.

From my father, I have inherited my inner critic, it speaks to me in his voice. My father is the source and the trigger for most, if not all of my self-criticism. My relationship with my father has been the source of much strife in my life. But, this critic of mine has also been the source of much of my motivation.

The key to dealing with the inner critic is to listen for the lesson“

If the criticism is true, then it’s helpful feedback that you can use. If it is not true, then it is only a projection and means nothing.”

The key is to determine if the criticism is true or not, This is also the most difficult part.

In her book, The Five Keys to mindful communication, Susan Gillis Chapman teaches us to listen to our bodies to determine if we are in an open or closed state of mind.

Using a similar concept, I started experimenting with this idea by finding deep emotions I could tie to true and false.  Finding a deep meditative state of mind, I concentrated on something I know to be true and paid attention to how that felt in my body, it felt light and airy and comfortable. Next, I repeated something to myself over and over that I knew not be to true. For more impact, I reflected on something emotional, something my ex husband used to blame on me, that was not true. I chose something with emotion tied to it because I wanted to pay attention to how false felt in my body. The “False” Sensation was heavy and it felt funny in the pit of my stomach.

Having concentrated on the delicate differences in the body, I am now armed with valuable information to use when I am attacked by a critic, be they internal or not. Now, when I feel criticized, I am able to focus deeply within and follow the sting of the criticism to the source of its hurt. This allows me to more readily identify if the criticism is true or false. If it is true, there is a lesson in it and recognizing that gives me the power to choose to change it or not. If the critique is false,  it is useless to me and deserves none of my energy, this allows me to let it go.

This excellent technique is useful in so many situations and is an excellent mindfulness exercise. Learning what different emotions feel like inside the body enables me to reframe them. Once I determine if they are useful to me now or just a remnant of the past, I am now more capable of dispositioning them. Once you learn to process your emotions in this way, you can melt barriers before they ever get in your way.

This week, I practiced using this technique with my dad, not 5 minutes into our conversation, he reminded me of a career mistake I made over three years ago. He brings it up every time… This time, rather than jumping on the critic bandwagon, I realized that staying stuck in a mistake I made three years ago was his choice, not mine and I chose not to let his choice bother me this time. What a fantasticly freeing experience.

How do you choose which critiques have a valuable lesson and which ones are just baggage keeping you tied to your past?

VII, Distortions of Miracle Impulses

This post is a part of a series entitled: Reflections from a Course in Miracles.

Because our perceptions are distorted, we do not have the impulse to perform miracles.

We were created to perform miracles because miracles are the way we express our true nature.

“All real pleasure comes from doing God’s Will. This is because not doing it is a denial of self.”

In using our bodies to perform miracles, we expand our vision of the miraculous. When we perform miracles, we grow our sphere of influence.

We are reminded once again that miracles are not cause for awe, because ordinary man creates miracles and you should never be in awe of your equal. This tells us that we should not worship those who perform miracles (priests, ministers, monks) because they are equal to us in the eyes of God.

A Course in Miracles is mind training. All new skills require time and attention, study and practice. The first chapter closes by reminding us that we should not be afraid and the more we study ACIM, the less fear we will have. So as we begin to look at the next chapter, let us practice in the miracles we have learned here: Forgiveness and Gratitude. Let us practice forgiving others for their mistakes and let us be grateful for the abundance in our lives. Fear is an illusion and Lack of abundance is illusion and by practicing Forgiveness and Gratitude, we are performing miracles which will in turn, attract for us both more miracles and more opportunities to perform miracles.

VI. The Illusion of Needs

This post is part of a series entitled: Reflections from a Course in Miracles

 

“You who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is a miracle that frees both the forgiver and the forgiven.

“Perfect love casts out fear.

If fear exists,

Then there is not perfect love.

But:

Only perfect love exists.

If there is fear,

It produces a state that does not exist”

Love is eternal perfection. Love and Fear cannot exist in the same space. In the last post, we learned that Love is the Truth. Anything that involves fear is a lie. This gives us a clue that if we are feeling fear, we are not looking at the situation from a place of love.

“All aspects of fear are untrue because they do not exist at the creative level, and therefore do not exist at all.”

When we are living in a state of Godliness, we do not have any needs because lack of anything is a figment of our own creation. Complete forgiveness is the one way to return to that state of Godliness where we realize we lack nothing.

This section ends interestingly by telling us that all aspects of fear are untrue because they are manmade.

“To whatever extent you are willing to submit your beliefs to this test, to that extent are your perceptions corrected”

This last sentence kind of puts the ownership of fear back on us. We own our fear, we created it and we can choose to realize it is false. By looking fear in the face, we realize we are limitless and can accomplish anything. Fear is a limitation we create in our minds.

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V. Wholeness and Spirit

 

 

“The miracle is much like the body in that both are learning aids for facilitating a state in which they become unnecessary.”

You were created in perfection. Everything about you is exactly as it should be. You have the freedom to choose your path and you may choose a path of no or low ambition, but your potential remains the same. The cars horsepower does not lessen because it’s driver does not push on the gas.

Time is merely a limitation of the mind in this body.

“When everyone recognizes that he has everything, individual contributions to the Sonship will no longer be necessary”

When we join with our spirit on our path, we realize that we are not lacking anything, we can accomplish everything we desire, we all have the same gifts. It is our perceptions that we are lacking that create lack. This is essential to remember because we are what we think we are and we create our reality through our thoughts and feelings.

The Truth is eternal, perfect and unchanged. Love is the Truth

We imprison ourselves with our own thoughts, because souls are perfect, unchanged and eternal

Each time we choose miracles (Forgiveness, Gratitude, Love) we are looking at the light. When that happens, our magnetism changes and we start attracting more light, and more opportunities for light.

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