A Little Story about Peace
When ego speaks, don't listen.
Some nights I can't sleep. I get up and read or go for a walk. Sometimes I just sit in the dark. I try to ride it out until day begins, but this week I dozed off in a chair. When I jolted awake, I was running late.
I panicked a little.
I hurried upstairs to ask Chrisoula if she would get up and help with morning chores. She said, voice full of sleep, what time is it?
Here is the first answer that occurred to me.
Oh I see. You want to know what time it is because you think I have enough time to get things done without your help. Or you're implying it's my fault I don't sleep. You don't want to help. You never want to help. Nobody does. Nobody ever has. You know what? Fine. I'm going to Florida to work on a fishing boat. You'll never hear from me again.
My Zen friends call that monkey mind. A priest once told me it was the devil talking. A helpful therapist gently it was the adult voice of a still-wounded child.
In A Course in Miracles, we call it "ego."
It doesn't matter what we call it. But if I want to remember what I am in truth, and claim the peace and happiness that is our shared inheritance in Creation, then I need to recognize ego and understand its function where and as it is.
Do not project the responsibility for your belief in [the ego] onto anyone else, or you will preserve the belief [in the ego]. When you are willing to accept sole responsibility for the ego's existence you will have laid aside all anger and all attack, because they come from an attempt to project responsibility for your own errors (T-7.VIII.5:3-4).
Ego always emphasizes personal identity and personal interests. It is constantly distinguishing: you from me, family from friend, friend from stranger, good from bad. It emphasizes grievances and guilt. Ego only sees attack and defense. It manufactures conflicts it cannot allow to be solved (T-7.VIII.2:2).
Ego is sometimes dramatic but it can also be subtle. It excels at maintaining its existence through conflict. Ego is happy to lose a battle, so long as the war continues. Every spiritual platitude and practice, every diet and exercise regime, every self-help book and therapeutic maneuver ever is just grist for its violent mill.
When we listen to ego - especially when we don't realize we are listening to ego - then there is no peace. There is no peace in us, and there is no peace outside of us.
Peace is the ego's greatest enemy because, according to its interpretation of reality, war is the guarantee of its survival. The ego becomes strong in strife (T-5.III.8:7-8).
So when Chrisoula asked what time it was, ego instantly declared war. What happened next?
I said, "it's 6:30."
Chrisoula sat up and said, "I'll do the horses and make you lunch. Do you want me to make coffee too?"
Please see this: ego ranted but I didn't listen. I didn't consent to its declaration of war. I didn't argue with it, didn't try to talk it down from its ledge, didn't castigate myself for having an ego.
I just didn't listen to it. I answered Chrisoula's question. I didn’t try to create peace. I carried on by not following ego's suggestion that I attack Chrisoula.
I know we are all focused on the greater wars outside of us - I am as well and there are nontrivial reasons this is good ACIM practice - but if we are peacemakers, then we must be peacemakers everywhere, always. That is the way.
Ignoring ego works because beneath ego's rage is the Holy Spirit's calm. Beyond ego's emphasis on differences and conflict is the Holy Spirit's recognition of equality and shared interest. Ego has to guess what reality is, but the Holy Spirit knows.
Understanding is light, and light leads to knowledge. The Holy Spirit is in light because He is in you who are light, but you yourself do not know this. It is therefore the task of the Holy Spirit to reinterpret you on behalf of God (T-5.III.7:5-7).
The Holy Spirit is the presence in us that looks past the appearance of conflict to the love the conflict is designed to obscure. When our gaze rests on love, then it is love that we bring forth; it is love that we extend to others. And love and peace abide together.
The Holy Spirit always seeks to unify and heal . . . Healing is the way to undo the belief in differences, being the only way of perceiving the Sonship as one. This perception is therefore in accord with the laws of God, even in a state of mind that is out of accord with His (T-7.IV.5:3, 5-6).
Is it clear? Even in a body in a world - in a state of existence unaligned with love - we can be heal and be healed.
And what does that healing look like?
The other morning it looked like declining to project my anxiety and stress onto Chrisoula. It looked like accepting her help. It looked like remembering that ego's judgment is always wrong - of course Chrisoula was asking about the time so she would know better what help to offer and how much.
It also looks like being grateful for all of the above.
. . . you need to develop your weakened ability to be grateful, or you cannot appreciate God. He does not need your appreciation, but you do. You cannot love what you do not appreciate, for fear makes appreciation impossible (T-6.I.17:1-3).
I share this story with you as an example of both what an ACIM practice can look like, and what its natural fruits are. The work is to recognize ego and stop giving attention to it. The fruits are peace and happiness, and they extend through us to the world. It is hard work because it is real work, but the joy and harmony are real too. I want nothing else. Therefore, with all my heart and mind, I seek to give nothing else.
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, and whoever is with us, ego is trying to persuade us to go to war. And just beneath that - quiet and still, like a lake at dawn - the Holy Spirit gently reminds us that together we both have and are peace.
Thank you, as always, for walking me through to the blessing of listening only to the Voice for Love.
Thanks for this Sean, an everyday story and example of what ego is and how it can play out in our everyday lives. This is a helpful reminder of how valuable being aware of one’s thinking is and the difference in a result there can be when we are present of mind; but it does take constant work and effort and I still squander too many opportunities to make good on this. I contemplate how much better off humanity would be if this were better known. Thanks for doing your bit too spread it around.
Thanks for the wonderful sharing Sean. What you stated about your own moment is such an easy way to fall into the exact thing we don't want to. If I may I'd like to share something here, last night I felt encouraged to watch the movie "Amish Grace," it was about the man who opened fire on a bunch of Amish children while at school. My husband was watching it with me and he's heard me many times speak about forgiveness, love, God, ego, etc., so he knows a lot of the movies I watched whether intentionally or otherwise, somehow have these themes running through them.
As we watched, I was in awe at how the Amish, the very parents of those children just killed earlier that day were able to extend forgiveness to the shooter as well as go to his wife and children and let them know they held no hatred for him but would do as God commanded and forgive their neighbor so they too could be forgiven. The non-Amish people couldn't believe this could be because there was no hatred, no animosity, just deep hurt, loss but still they managed to all attend his funeral to offer love, support and forgiveness to his wife and children while her entire church congregation did not attend the service.
I could see that my husband understood why I was drawn to watch it but I felt a certain type of way when he said "I guess if you're raised that way from a child and they are simple people, then that's what you do." My gut reaction was "What??" Forgiveness has a place, people, lifestyle? So while everything inside me wanted to discuss/debate what was just said, I replied by saying, "I know it looks crazy hard for some and yet they really did make it look so simple, and I loved when they said "how does the hate feel" to the little girl who still wanted to hate the man who killed her sister, and she said "not good."
I continued by saying that I recall so many times when it never felt good either. So I understand what you're sharing here that even those simple moments like running late, watching a movie, cooking dinner, going for a walk can raise all kinds of thoughts that the ego considers a problem, but when we recognize it for what is happening in the moment, we don't have to feed it and sure enough, it goes away. I fell asleep with the greatest prayer to be able to see life/people/situations as these people did, through the eyes of God and honor that despite their children being killed, and a wife threatening to leave the entire community because she could not forgive in the same way/timeframe that her husband and others had.
I even came to understand that when they "shun" someone, it is not because they don't love and forgive them, but they liken it to not hanging out with a thief, those who do drugs, or kill or anything else you don't want to become part of so when "English" people as they were referred to tried to introduce pictures, technology, etc., and an Amish person is drawn to these things, they have a choice whether to return or remain "of the world."
I found it very profound and I know my job is not to project my feelings onto my husband but I could feel immediately when he said what he did, which in reality was simply what he saw in the movie, I wanted to defend what I perceived as being the "real" message, but I didn't, at least not in that way. I answered what he asked, explained what I took away and said that I hoped one day I too could have anything in the world happen to me, those around me, or the world at large and forgive them so immediately as the Amish had done, and he was fine with this and said he knew that is what my wish would be. All was well and that was it.
As you said Sean it's important to be vigilant because it shows up when we are not even aware it's popped its head out for another go at it! Yikes!!!
Thank you again dear friend and brother for being that light in the tunnel, and I hope to be that for you and all as well in whatever ways possible. Blessings eternal, much love to you and your entire family and the entire world, no exceptions.