The other morning - late for work, mentally prepping for a difficult meeting - someone cut me off in traffic.
For exactly that long I was filled with a homicidal rage. Then, like the offending driver, the anger disappeared. I prayed: "God, please bless that person, please keep them safe."
I want to look at two aspects of that experience.
First, the prayer was as much of an attack (on me and on my brother) - as the homicidal rage had been.
The prayer was an attack on my brother because it left the separation intact. It protected and justified the mind's decision to divide what was one into "that guy who did a stupid dangerous thing" and "the better man who forgave him." It wasn’t forgiveness - it was rage hiding its motives.
Forgiveness-to-destroy will overlook no sin, no crime, no guilt that it can seek and find and "love." Dear to its heart is error, and mistakes loom large and swell within its sight (S-2.I.2:2-3).
The prayer was an attack on me because it deflected my attention away from the homicidal rage, and it is only in giving nonviolent attention to that rage that there is any hope of actually healing it.
Ken Wapnick was very good on this subject.
It is far better when we are angry that we be angry. Then we can deal with our unhealed mind rather than pretending that by controlling our behavior (effect/form) we are controlling our thoughts (cause/content) (Healing the Unhealed Mind 87).
This is the second aspect of the experience worth looking at.
When we are triggered by something, it's not the something - the driver, in this case - that we need to worry about. It's the underlying rage (or fear or guilt) that we need to look at in us.
In other words, I want to see in a deep and sustained way that I am actually capable of homicidal rage. I actually hate. Not hypothetically but actually.
And that's bad but what's worse - and also harder to see - is my willingness to ignore that rage and hate in favor of cheap prayers and vaguely good intentions.
So what can we do?
In A Course in Miracles, healing is less about conforming to external ritual or dogma, and more about being fully present to whatever inside of us literally scares us to death.
Some of you are thinking, wait. Aren't we supposed to get over homicidal rage?
Well, yes. But also, no.
At the level of the body and the world, it is good to overcome murderous anger. Doing so is pro-social behavior. We are communal animals; not killing each other is positive. So yes. Definitely do that.
But also remember: you and I are not bodies (W-pI.199.h) and there is no world (W-pI.132.6:2). At that level we have to look at the interior stuff that terrifies us. We have to explore our capacity for evil and violence.
We go where the darkness is, and we let the dark get darker.
And now you stand in terror before what you swore never to look upon . . . the "loveliness" of sin, the delicate appeal of guilt, the "holy" waxen image of death, and the fear of vengeance of the ego you swore in blood not to desert . . . (T-19.D.6:1, 3).
Later in the day - when work was finished and family obligations met - I revisited the morning's three-second glimpse of the "sin" I swore to never look upon. I let the rage and hatred come back. Where in my body did they hover? How did they feel? I let my thoughts become a killer's. What did I want to do? How did I want to do it?
And in all of this I asked the Holy Spirit to help me not turn away from a single second of it in fear.
I do this a lot. At a point in my ACIM practice, this became my practice. Look at the really hard stuff, the scary stuff, the shameful stuff. Look at it without turning away. Look at it with the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes - like in this instance - the gift of understanding is given, undoing the "problem" forever.
Sometimes things simply get better little by little. We're happier and calmer. More help than hindrance. We know when to lean in and when to walk away. We can say “it’s all good” and mean it.
And that is nice, yes, but that is not the point of our ACIM practice.
What is the point?
As things get better in the body in the world, quietly - so quietly we often miss it - the real healing begins, which is remembering that separation is an illusion, that we have no problems, that God is Love, that Creation is Love, and we are Love, and all is well and always has been well and will be well forever and ever, om shanti shanti shanti amen.
As many of you know - because you teach it to me over and over in study groups, 1:1 dialogues, emails and comment threads - it's silly to talk too much about those levels of healing and wholeness. Talking about Love is often just another way of forgetting Love, ignoring Love.
So we talk instead about how we get cut off in traffic, screw up the response, and then later remember the real and hard work of healing through study and practice of A Course in Miracles. We listen to each other and we support each other.
We do that work together, by the way - there is not Sean's rage and your rage, Sean's fear and your fear. There is just rage. There is just fear. When we heal, even a little, we heal for all. Our shared presence is the light in which salvation is made clear and the universe restored to both of us as one (T-18.VII.5:3). Why else do I write? Why else do you read?
Dear Sean, In rereading this gem I see how elements of your story are applicable to talkers (and writers?) as well as drivers. I don’t like it when I’m speaking or thinking out loud and someone cuts me off with their own words and thoughts, or doesn’t listen, or doesn’t listen as well as I’d like them to. But I’ve surely cut many people off with my words in this lifetime—sometimes intentionally, even smartassedly, sometimes unknowingly, and at times even recklessly as to cause a mess of a wreck. Likewise, I’ve followed others too closely, riding their bumper if you will, eager to interject whatever pressing opinion I’m compelled to put forth. (Where did attentive listening go?) And in slowing down to look at these matter more closely of late, I realize I’m capable of doing all of this without even opening my mouth! I cut others off in my mind and heart in any number of ways—all the while the small self believing she’s noble for holding her tongue. What a lonely place to bear.
Also, your teaching today reminds me somehow of “To Know the Dark” by Wendell Berry.
With love and well wishes,
Hi, Sean - I’m glad you’re back, or was it me that left? 🤔. Either way, this post makes me remember why I enjoy reading you so much. You really dig into the deeper message of the Course that so many of us miss. Thank you, thank you! ❤️❤️