Useless Journies – ACIM Chapter 4

This morning I woke up with the question on my mind, \”If you have no one to tell about your running and no dopamine rewards, what would you do?\” In the silence, an honest answer is demanded.

If there is a thing as spirit, it must be brought forth and lived. I think it means giving up the things which are louder, the noise. Dopamine rewards are not spirit.

Then, I began chapter 4 (The Illusions of the Ego) of the Course in Miracles text. Here is paragraph 3 of the introduction: \”The journey to the cross should be the last “useless journey”; Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. If you can accept it as your own last useless journey, you are also free to join my resurrection. Until you do so your life is indeed wasted. It merely re-enacts the separation, the loss of power, the futile attempts of the ego at reparation, and finally the crucifixion of the body, or death. Such repetitions are endless until they are voluntarily given up. Do not make the pathetic error of “clinging to the old rugged cross”; The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. This is not the Gospel I intended to offer you. We have another journey to undertake, and if you will read these lessons carefully they will help prepare you to undertake it.\”

This paragraph is counter to denominational Christianity. This is one of the reason I like A Course in Miracles: it is counter-cultural.

So, I gave up a major internet social site. This gave me time to contemplate. Before I had such great internet connections, I contemplated. I stood in the silence and endured its searching. I want to be spirit, not ego. Giving up the ego\’s accomplishments is to hard because it means giving up the dopamine rewards. Its not that I won\’t ever try to accomplish anything, but that I will do it in secret. Because if I say anything, the other person congratulates me and I get the dopamine reward.

So, if I give up the rewards, it is a detox experience. Changing the habits which seek out the rewards is difficult. Seeking the rewards is a survival mechanism. Having a secure and valued place in the tribe is necessary for survival according to the ancient brain mechanisms. Today, achieving something and being praised is the equivalent of bringing the tribe some food.

I want to walk away from this mode of living. Not because I am better, but because I seek something else. Renunciation. Downward mobility. Giving in secret…praying in secret…fasting in secret…losing this life….

An interesting picture was taken of me on a bridge in Corpus Christi. I see that I am a skinny version of my mother. Not the drunk fat cruel mother with whom which I lived, but the spark of energy which could play beautiful piano and did seek higher things, only to run into the alcohol addiction over and over. As  spark, I live:

So funny, see I am holding my sun glasses. This was taken before the sun came up; but the wind was so fiercely blowing sand, that I had to put my glasses on for protection.

Advertisement

A Fork in the Road Passed

This is where I was on Sunday, finishing a half marathon. The plan had been to go to a 50 mile race in Kansas this coming Saturday. But I\’ve been watching the weather for that area. It looks wet (snow, sleet, rain) and cold (30F to 40F) and windy (13-18 mph from the north) for that day. A 50 mile run takes me over 12 hours. I realized I have no desire to be miserable for 12+ hours. So I cancelled my trip.

I still have 3 days off work, so I might run a private marathon or two at home. Its part of my downward mobility project (see below).

Downward mobility is not necessarily a Christian value for me (since I am not really Christian), but de-constructing my ego and not-going-along-with-society certainly are my values. Do you know how hard it is to be of service at work and make sure not to brown nose about it?

This morning, riding my elliptical, I was thinking about how my colleague R was standing in for boss while boss is on medical leave. I realized clearly that R is the one being groomed to move up (and not me). But it also occurred to me that I had been honest with boss about how I didn\’t want to climb a career ladder but be a technical expert. I also know in my heart that I am more interested in my life activities more than my career. When I think about it consciously, I\’m perfectly willing to support R in his career.

That is the fork in the road. I passed it, maybe long ago.

My ego loves to compete at work. So dealing with the emotional urge is hard; partly because the ego goes under ground. You don\’t know how many resentful failure messages it sends out. Well, in the quietness of my morning meditation, these failure thoughts are easier to spot. And then I can re-center on the choice I made and decide if I still want that choice.

I am part of the massive American eating machine. I\’m only skinny because I work out alot. Like many Americans, I have no idea how to eat only as much as I need. It is true, I might be slightly better a food discrimination than most people but only by a fraction.

Pretty soon after waking up this morning, I thought 2 words: joy and happiness. That is a new thing for me to come up with those words before I even got out of bed. They are energy words for me. That is, just thinking the word gives me the feeling of the word. I feel energized without any change in my physical world.

Awesome! Energy!

On this side of the fork, who am I? I know I\’m on the road less travelled. I know I hear a different drummer. (re M. Scott Peck books). But what really does it mean in abstract non-material terms?

For most Americans, the downward mobility choice is a choice to stagnate and die. Is that the road I\’m on?

Life is momentary for me. I felt it on my elliptical this morning. I felt it in the word \”joy.\” When I run endless miles, it is seeking the eternal value of life. The road after the fork has nothing on it. It has no experiences because it is egoless but eternal.

Sounds boring right? That is how I\’m gett\’en out of here.

Tuesday, Richard Beck posted this:
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2013/03/downward-mobility.html

It is about Henri Nouwen\’s The Selfless Way of Christ.

For some reason, it touched some deep part of me that was the reason I became a spiritual seeker or tried Christianity. The life of the monk is a hidden life; hidden in Christ. It is quiet. It is deep communion with spirit.

Here are some excerpts:

We are taught to conceive of development in terms of an ongoing increase in human potential. Growing up means becoming healthier, stronger, more intelligent, more mature, and more productive. …. In our society, we consider the upward move the obvious one while treating the poor cases who cannot keep up as sad misfits, people who have deviated from the normal line of progress.

 …

Three temptations by which we are confronted again and again are the temptation to be relevant, the temptation to be spectacular, and the temptation to be powerful.

Who am I when nobody pays attention, says thanks, or recognizes my work?

I think that question sits at the root of our spiritual malaise and weakness. We want people to pay attention to us, to recognize us, to give us our due. This is how our identities, worth and significance are grounded. We want to be relevant, spectacular or powerful. So we go through life fishing for such things, a grasping that keeps knocking us off center, spiritually speaking.

I\’m mindful here of something St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4.11):

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.

 Nouwan observes, \”There is almost nothing more difficult to overcome than our desire for power.\”

Samskara

This is a new word I learned a few days ago: an unfinished energy pattern that ends up running your life.

I don\’t know that I have one energy pattern running my life, but there is one past situation to which my brain returns over and over: my monastic experience. I can\’t seem to forget this. It doesn\’t help that I look at their web pages and read their news stories. Ultimately, I know that being a nun cooped up on a religious order is not right for me. But the metaphysics of why I went there and who I am outside here continue to bug me.

For instance. On Sunday, I ran 50 miles. It was an incredible experience and went beyond what I thought I was capable of. My ability to run in the late stages of the race was a miracle and far different than any 50 miles race I\’ve run before. At the monastery last Sunday, the sisters were having an open house to show off their remodeling. So they had the Abbot from the nearby men\’s monastery come over and bless the place. They gave tours. They had food.

When I lived at the monastery, I always hated the sedate lifestyle. And I never was in agreement with the all male Church hierarchy. On the other hand, I loved my 50 mile run.

Now it is Wednesday. I walked 6 miles yesterday, lifted free weights and did another hour of ex-machines. This morning I got up at 5:30 and hit the park in Seabrook at 6:45 for another 9 miles. Now I am taking my car for service and I will work out again this evening. And, I\’ll repeat the exercise routine for the rest of my vacation. You understand what this means: I was not injured by my 50 mile effort. Being injury free is also a miracle.

I am living my life. It is a real life. But no one bows before me as they do Sister OSB. My ego hates this. I think my ego is the only reason I am still holding up this energy. I picture my ego as a mad dog that attacks a stuffed toy over and over, violently shaking it around; and repeating the performance again tomorrow. If I had achieved enlightenment, perhaps I\’d just laugh at the dog. And truly, as soon as I remember to laugh, I am detached and free.

My latest spiritual studies remind me that I will have to practice \”conscious awareness\” or I\’ll go back to unconscious ego domination. One of the differences between A Course in Miracles and stuff like Zen is that I am not alone. I have help and I don\’t have to do anything but step back and be quiet. Whatever/ Whoever the help is, it does work for me.

This morning in Meador park, the huge fat man on the lawnmower stopped his machine and smiled at me as I walked along the path: such a sweet smile!

I am finally here…

Prelude on Saturday: I signed up for Flatlanders many months ago. Coming home from Colorado in July with so much pain, I had no idea what I would do about this race. I didn\’t even buy my airplane tickets until August; and I cashed in all my points on everything so that no matter how bad I did, there\’d be no financial loss.

Don\’t try to make it mean anything.

Sunday morning, I got up with the alarm. My drinks are made. I did something new. When I travel, I am always concerned about reducing my load. So I took an old copy of A Course in Miracles paperback and sliced off the workbook. This is very small and light weight and I am reading the lessons as if they were the text. The lessons contain much teaching. I am programming my brain with A Course in Miracles in order to have a happy day. To have a happy day, I need to walk with Spirit not ego. Begin the free flow of spiritual ideas.

Lesson 4 in the work book. What thoughts are crossing my mind? These thoughts, good or bad, don\’t mean anything. I flash on the human quest for enlightenment. Is it not just another human wishing they were pain free and happy all the time? I thought about how \”Untethered Soul\” mentioned to let in the power at all times and feel good all the time. My heel hurts. This brings me apprehension, annoyance, failure.

L5: form does not matter. Can I enter today a transcendent state? I could say, \”I want to have a happy day.\” And, \”I will make no decisions by myself.\” I am afraid of my own self. L7: I see only the past. L8: My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts….my mind has been merely blank.  I seem to be thinking about how painful and miserable today will be and how it will end in failure.

L9: I see nothing as it is now.

So I drive the 2 miles over to the race, and set up my personal aid station. I say hi to some of my compatriots. This is important. We are in this together.

It rained for 2 or 3 hours in the morning. But it was warm, so I ran all day in a tank top. About 3 hours in, I realized that I felt pretty good and that if I kept the pace just a tiny bit faster, I could get a gold medal for 50 miles. So I worked at it.

I met Joyce and Norm (in their 70s) and their daughter. I met Lee. I said hi to many others. Andrew was doing an outstanding job of counting laps. My nutrition program seemed to be working.

I have no idea how my brain came up with \”Skip to My Lou My Darling.\” I couldn\’t remember any verse lyrics but that song played over and over. It is totally funny what your brain can come up with.

About 2 hours in, I had a revelation: the reason I quit ultra marathons before the end is because I think now one cares about me. In fact, a major reason behind much of how I feel about life is I think no one cares about me. But that is not true; especially in a race like this: we are all needed and no one can do it without the others. Wow!

6 hours in, I met Julie, a 53 year old woman who was trying to break the course record of 60 miles. So, if I wanted to be happy, I needed to go for the gold since there would be no age group win for me. I cheered for her and she cheered for me.

My self talk was incredibly good. I remember wanting to let go, not control. I could hear some inner voice say about my speed, \”How\’s this?\” as I sprinted along. I said, \”That\’s great. Lets keep going.\” Into the 6th hour, I pulled a crumpled up, soggy scrap of paper I had forgot was there out of my Nathan belt. It had stuff from A Course in Miracles: \”Abandon ego on behalf of Him. Seek peace alone and know the power of God. This holy instant is all the time there is. All separation vanishes when holiness is shared.\” I started meditating on this and Skip to My Lou vanished. I was better now a cruising pretty fast. I knew that abandoning ego meant letting go and letting whatever power was inside me be in charge. That is why my self talk was so good. God offers power to everyone, but I needed to accept it now, today, this holy instant.

Along in here, I had an an apple and a Starbucks bottled frappucino. And then I felt a ton better. I can\’t at all describe how good I felt, and practically sprinted for a lap before that wore off. But it bought me some needed cushion time. An hour or two later, after various other calories, I had another frappucino. And not too long later, I spent quality time in the bathroom; but I felt much better after getting some stuff out.

Sharing a race course was sharing holiness. I even had to ask a stranger to get the cap off my frappucino. She became part of the \”we\’re in this together team.\” I even included the people who bottled that drink and the executives who thought of it in the first place.

The last 2.5 hours were hard. My brain didn\’t track with what Andrew was telling me about my laps and I kept thinking I had one more done than he had said. So I arrived at 1h50min left and needed 7 laps. Crap. I put in a fast one fueled by another frappucino. Then I finally got to 2 laps with 51 min to go. I put in another good one and left myself 31 min for the last lap. As I passed one of the other runners who was standing by her chair, I said, \”one more fucking lap.\” She laughed and said she knew what I meant. As I continued to tell everyone about my fucking last lap, a beautiful clear rainbow lit up the sky.

haha, for once, I didn\’t quit before the miracle. I\’d been out there for nearly 12 hours and had put enough heart into the thing to far surpass what I thought I could do at the start.

Character

I was discouraged this morning. The scales just won\’t cooperate, despite 20 hours of exercise a week. I don\’t seem able to cut back on eating. My body seems to be able to exist on very few calories. But it is also always true that my mood is dismal early in the morning. I am usually down on myself. And at the moment, the Course in Miracles text is detailing my ego\’s need for specialness.

But, after some spiritual study, I approached the ex-bike. I grasped the haki-machi I wear as a head band. This morning, I remembered what it means: warrior spirit. As I put it on my head, I gained that little bit of extra energy. I felt the gates of resolve and light open to an \”enlightened\” attitude. I will walk forward a bit at a time, daily. I don\’t care what sort of depression I may be wading through.

On Saturday I fly to St Louis. On Sunday I run a 12 hour race. My heel is in almost no pain.

Right now, I am at work stupid early in order to participate in a global conference call.

The cold Coke Zero is wonderful. All life is good. I will persist in the difficult emotional work which is my contribution to human evolution.

To persevere despite how I feel is what I call character.

The Power of MY Thought

I have ignored this concept usually. One of the teachings of A Course in Miracles is to accept the power as supported by the Holy Spirit\’s thought system, put in the effort to direct my thinking and believe in its power, stop believing in the ego\’s dissonance.

25 years ago, I heard that thoughts create reality. I didn\’t grasp or live in that belief. In other words, I denied the power.

I wake up every morning with a head full of crappy thoughts about myself and the world. But I quickly sit down and do a little studying of a Course in Miracles. This always enable me to direct my thinking towards love, joy, peace, Help; essential okay-ness.

Essential okay-ness is necessary for me. Without it I\’d need to kill myself, take drugs, eat myself to death or something.

Chapter 7.VI excerpts:

\”Your ability to direct your thinking as you choose is part of its power. If you do not believe you can do this you have denied the power of your thought, and thus rendered it powerless in your belief….Produced by fear, the ego reproduces fear. This is its allegiance, and this allegiance makes it treacherous to love because you are love. Love is your power, which the ego must deny. It must also deny everything this power gives you because it gives you everything….The ego therefore opposes all appreciation, all recognition, all sane perception and all knowledge.\”
Part of my doldrums are related to my left heel pain. Actually this pain is getting better and piece by piece the issues are being solved. But since I am not pain free, I get down about it. Actually, I get down because I am not Scott Jurek or any number of other amazing ultra-runners. I get down as I\’ve only been working out 16 hours a week instead of 20. I get down for only running 50 miles a week instead of 80. I get down because I weight 134 instead of 130, or 129. I worry about my Colorado running vacation because I might not be able to do 8 hours of walk jog every day.
So, you see a pattern here?  Where have I set my bars? Insane? So, it is A Course in Miracles that turns the doldrums around every morning. THE Answer is a spiritual remedy. My ego allies with the doldrums and supports going down. Spirit supports the essential okay-ness. I feel much better in okay-ness. I need to feel better. 
Self transcendence is choosing Spirit instead of ego; and then getting out of bed.
And then go running. Yeah!

Encumbrances…

…burdens or impediments.  For some, austerity is a painful deprivation. For me, it is the letting go of complexity and encumbrances in order to live in the simple light of my soul. 


Most of my encumbrances are in my mind. They can be called unrecognized beliefs, and the ego\’s desire for specialness. Specialness causes me to carry out a war in my mind against all others. This war consists of attack thoughts whose purpose is to see me as better than everyone else and promote others worseness. I think I need to do this for my safety because I don\’t recognize my true position in the real world.


The world I see is a world of encumbrances. The real world is just the light and peace of God; silent and benignly peaceful. My ego would never want this; so it devised another world where it could be special and reign over peace.


What an annoying pain I have made for my self by choosing the ego\’s world over the real world. My shadow is unrecognized beliefs; which control my life and cause me to seek specialness.


I can choose again.

Accepting ACIM Atonement

The point of ACIM Atonement is realizing that this world is a delusion, none of it really happened; hence you and everyone are innocent. Accepting Atonement for yourself means you believe this and hence live that way: seeing only the light of love and not shadows of darkness. Accepting Atonement and ACIM forgiveness are the same: overlooking the shadows and seeing only love.

God is love. Reality is love. Anything else does not exist.

My ACIM workbook lesson for today was about the topic of seeing the world forgiven: The light has come. I have forgiven the world.

Reading the lesson for the first time, it seemed like such pie-in-the-sky to believe I would see a world filled only with light starting today. But a series of thoughts brought me to the conclusion that I do believe I have accepted Atonement, even if I clearly saw for only a little bit. Having seen once, I can continue to re-produce the opening.

I was thinking about the plant manager whose plant I just left. I was thinking about the move to Texas. I was thinking about the myriad of negative thoughts I have all day long and how, since I seem unable to stop them, they would prevent me from ever forgiving the world (seeing it as light). But then, my ACIM teaching whispered to me:

  1. My negative thoughts are \”just\” temptation. 
  2. And anyway, none of this \”really\” happened. 
  3. I am not guilty.
These 3 thoughts, constitute my realization that I have accepted the Atonement for myself; and that I know it in my heart. These 3 thoughts, realized as beliefs, put a distance between me and my ego. I identify less with my ego. If I am not my ego, I can be innocent. Being innocent is the only way to be free. I must be free; that\’s the only way I\’ll be happy or go to Texas as a free person. I must go to Texas as a free person because I have more to learn. I can\’t learn if I continually hold my past against the present. The spiral of my learning must go higher.
As of this moment, I do have a bright future as a free innocent person.

How….

Paul Brunton, in his 16 volume spiritual notebook, expresses over and over that the person needs to redirect from ego or small self to larger self, Higher Self. The idea is also in A Course in Miracles: the small ego is not real, the Christ, the Son of God within, is the truth.

From Brunton:

  • \”Blessed are the poor in spirit,\” said Jesus. What did he mean? To be \”poor\” in the mystical sense is to be deprived of the possession of the ego, that is, to become ego-free.
  • When all of man\’s thoughts are put together, this total constitutes his ego. By giving them up to the Stillness, he gives up his ego, denies his self, in Jesus\’ phrase.
  • To surrender the ego is to surrender the thought of it, and this is done by stilling the mind whenever, in daily life, one becomes self-conscious.
  • The more he tries to fight the ego, the more he thinks about it and concentrates on it. This keeps him still its prisoner. Better is it to turn his back on it and think about, concentrate on the higher self.
So, how do you renounce the ego without chastising yourself all the time because you reacted to it? This is where I have located the workbook of A Course in Miracles. Each day it gives me a thought which is directed to the higher self and not the ego. I need to be taught to think differently and I need help in order to think differently. There are other books which provide a daily thought. Be careful of most of them because they give a very narrow limited and worldly view of the world and certainly almost all of them see the ego as real. The ego is just thoughts.
I see my life as a journey towards the higher self. The one thing I\’ve desired for decades is a vibrant spiritual connection. There have been turns of events all along which have brought me closer. Like, in my early years of sobriety, a group of us recovering alcoholics were attending seminars by a man who talked about the ego and this lead to listening to a channeled entity who talked about the higher self. AA itself is directed towards ego deflation and surrender to a higher power. In the monastery, I was reading about the small self and the larger self.
And somehow or other, I arrived at A Course in Miracles which discusses the ego delusion in a more complicated way. And somehow, I arrived a Paul Brunton\’s notebooks. 
I have to say this about the Bible: it is misinterpreted not only by scholars throughout the ages but by the early church. The renunciation of ego combined with identification with the higher self which Jesus practiced made him look special; and his expertise was incomprehensible to the early church so they called him Son of God. Truly he was Son of God, but so are you if you deny the ego and take up the higher self.
Not easy. Maybe I only make a smidgen of progress in this life. But I refuse to give up.
So today, my ACIM lesson is: Love created me like Itself. I vow to hold this idea in mind and use it as the thing I turn to when I notice I am in ego reality. As I return to this thought of Love and It, I also enter silence.
Now, I slept 12 hours last night. I think I\’ll go to a small park today and run in a forest.

My Ego Reactions

The act of eating and drinking in richness (aka gluttony) is dissipative of human physical and spiritual dignity. Human dignity is sacred ground and should not thus be desecrated.

I have always been at the bottom of the pecking order. Yesterday at work, as one of the guys was pecking away, I felt this incredible hatred. I am completely tired of competition.

At the same time, or on the other hand, I have an ego that completely can\’t accept quietly doing a great job and ignoring anything else. Spiritually speaking, it is good for me to have continuous ego deflation. I should just laugh at my ego feelings. I really do harbor resentments from years ago. I noticed that as I was out running this morning and was thinking about something from 30+ years ago.

Do you see why I need to live in the now? As I notice my ego drifting into resentment, I ask for spiritual help. It works.

Here is what my next long race would look like if I was doing it during the day: