The Course in Miracles teaches us that the miracle is a shift in perception, from fear to love. In relationships, it is not the so-called “reality” of the situation that disturbs our peace (aka pisses us off, makes us want to kill / trade-in / divorce our spouses, put our teens up for adoption, run people off the road, tell our bosses to take this job and shove it, call our friends out on their shit, whatever…) but rather, it is our perception of it.
And as the Course also reminds us, projection makes perception, therefore our perceptions are not reliable reporters, being made up of our ego projections onto the world. So, basically, we don’t know jack shit about relationships and what we’re supposed to be doing in them, and we need a miracle to help us figure it out.
So, this is a story of a miracle.
One of my best friends and favorite people in the Universe is a woman who, for the purpose of this story, I shall refer to as Princess – one of the three pet names (the other two being Precious and Punkin) by which we have called one another for most of the 40 years we have been friends. In our long history together we have shared many experiences – beginning as classmates (each giving the other what I am pretty sure was the only vote for Homecoming Queen either of us probably received) and even living together with my family during our senior year. We were in one another’s weddings, I am Godparent to her four children, she journeyed with me through the loss of both of my parents. We adventured in fun places together, and participated in countless girl’s weekends.
We were very similar in many ways – we shared a penchant for irreverent humor and engaged in hilarious banter (I still think there may be no one I have laughed so hard with that wine came out my nose so many times) and had numerous parallel experiences – supporting one another through divorce, returning to higher education, finding new partners, launching new careers, interwoven with a certain amount of crazy which is probably best left filed under “Dodged Bullets”.
As our lives evolved, however, the ego mind began to insinuate itself into our relationship, and caused an insidious sense of separation. Princess met a wonderful man, and as she built a life with him, her socio-economic life upscaled significantly from where it had been and began to look very different from mine.
At the same time, my 20-year career was ending – crashing and burning, really, in the wake of 9/11 – and I found myself starting over, going back to school, and having no money. Despite a life being raised as a student of metaphysics and New Thought, fear got its hooks into me and I was mired in both lack and victim consciousness.
While I struggled financially as a full-time student while working in the mental health field, I witnessed evidence of Princess’s wonderful lifestyle, and I regret to say I became very jealous and envious. She and I were from the same home town, and my inner critic (the voice of the ego) criticized me viciously and relentlessly for not having been able to make the same luxurious life happen for myself. I felt that there was something flawed in me that I hadn’t attracted the same abundance and prosperity, that perhaps I was not deserving of it, or I wasn’t smart enough, or I had made the wrong choices.
But – spoiler alert – the ego mind doesn’t necessarily allow us to sit with our own feelings of responsibility or guilt for what we experience, rather instead it encourages us to deny it and project our feelings toward ourselves outward onto someone else and blame them for our suffering.
At around the same time I had become a student of A Course in Miracles.
Although I had grown up attending a Unity church and my mother was a student of Truth, A Course in Miracles was the first theosophical set of ideas that really answered everything for me. I avidly read the text, practiced the lessons; I found Course teachers and read their books, attended their workshops, and listened to their cd’s. I immersed myself in the philosophy of A Course in Miracles (although you’d never know it with all of the judgments, resentments, grievances, and victim consciousness I was still giving shelter to).
The next thing that happened was that Princess came out as an atheist.
My reaction was one of defensiveness – feeling that she was, in her expression of her belief, insulting my own. Over the next few years, the toxic combination of my hidden negative emotions and my perception of her implied judgment of my belief system resulted in our friendship devolving into in an unstable, volatile state, ripe for an egoic cataclysmic reaction. That opportunity came eventually – the details of the form in which it showed up aren’t relevant here. Suffice it to say that there was no way, given what I had been harboring, that it couldn’t. Something happened – not even between Princess and me directly, but through other people involved – and we became estranged.
Although this is where my resentful thoughts had taken me, I was not prepared for what I felt. It was as if my arm had been amputated – this person who had loved me for more than two-thirds of my life, who had been such an integral part of my life, was suddenly just gone. I experienced grief as if she had died. I cried, I dreamt about her, I wrote unsent letters. I talked to her, in my mind and sometimes out loud. But I was also angry and resentful, and so I alternated between righteously reminding myself of all of my perceived reasons for being justified in my anger, and wanting it all to disappear so that we could go back to being the friends we were years ago before it all got so complicated.
But mostly, I let the anger win out.
One thing I had learned to do as a Course in Miracles student was practice forgiveness.
The Course’s version of forgiveness recognizes that the perceived offense never actually happened, because the world is an illusionary projection that we are making up in our minds. It is like a dream, and so holding another person responsible for harming us is sort of like being mad at them for something they did to us last night in our dream, and in Course philosophy, is therefore viewed as ridiculous.
The forgiveness process is to forgive the person for what they have not done, remembering that one is dreaming an illusion made up by the ego mind, forgiving oneself for dreaming it, and releasing the whole situation to Spirit to be healed.
I use a wonderful prayer given to Course teacher Gary Renard by his own teachers;
“You are Spirit, pure, whole, and innocent. All is forgiven and released. I am Spirit, pure, whole, and innocent. All is forgiven and released.”
As we practice this form of forgiveness, our projections are dissolved, so our perceptions change, which changes our experience of the world for the better.
I must have said that prayer a million times.
Forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgive, forgive, forgive.
The Course tells us that forgiveness is the closest thing to real, unconditional love we are able know on the level of form. Over time, as it did its work of dissolving my egoic thoughts, my heart began softening toward Princess. I eventually came to think of our friendship as being on “inactive” status, feeling that someday, somehow, we would be friends again.
One evening three years later, I was celebrating my birthday with two girlfriends at my home. A large box had arrived with a return label I did not recognize. When I opened it, I found a gorgeous set of twelve colorful, handblown wine glasses (it’s interesting that metaphysically, twelve represents the number of completion) and a note from Princess explaining that her in-laws had made their transition within the past two years, and she wanted me to have the goblets, as they reminded her of me, and because her in-laws had liked me.
And with her extension of that olive branch, our estrangement was over, just like that.
There is also an amazing epilogue:
I thought that the miracle of Princess extending love to me was the end of the story. However, although it certainly embodied a shift in perception, and a return to love, the true healing came a year later on the occasion of my next birthday. Princess, whose atheism I had finally come to accept as her choice, and not a reflection or judgment of my own, sent me the most incredible wall hanging, which read,
I honor the place in you that is the same in me.
I honor the place in you where
The whole universe resides.
I honor the place in you
Of love, of light, of peace, and of truth.
I honor the place in you
That is the same in me.
There is but One.
So, basically, my atheistic friend symbolically wrote on my wall the central teaching of A Course in Miracles. WE ARE ONE.
Question: Do you have an area of your life or a relationship that you still need to practice forgiveness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Licensed Practitioner, Ordained ACIM Minister
Teachers of God Foundation