Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No-Mind is a Worldly Concept; the Holy Instant is an Unworldly Experience: A Savior's Dialectic

Philip Chard, a psychotherapist, writes a regular column, “Out of My Mind,” that appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His most recent article (May 22, 2007) is entitled, “Paying no mind to the ego can help reduce stresses.” He tells of a woman, Connie, an advanced student of meditation who can induce "no-mind," a state of consciousness in which one's sense of self temporarily fades or evaporates. Consequently, she experiences interludes when there is no discernible "me" in her awareness.

She was able to draw on this discipline when she was confronted by her boyfriend-turned-stalker.

Eyeball-to-eyeball with this bully, she intuitively used her spiritual training to remove her "self" from the confrontation.

"I stood there, got centered and entered a no-mind state," she recalled. "In any ego sense, I mostly disappeared."

This goon screamed at her and brandished his fist, but Connie remained steadfast in no-mind awareness. There was a tense pause until, inexplicably, he backed away, gave her an irritated but bewildered stare and then took off.

This appears to be a victory for Connie, and it seems that training in no-mind meditation offers protection from ego conflicts and bad things that happen in the world. This is a rather seductive account.

But before you begin searching for a meditation center in your area, I would invite you to take a hard look at the premises of this story. The word “premise” comes from the Latin praemissa, meaning “to set before.” A premise, then, is a proposition that forms the foundation of an argument. The foundation of her story is based on four main premises:

1. There is a world.
2. We are victims of the world.
3. There are other people out there.
4. My ego-personality is real.

Before I take on the premises one-by-one, let’s imagine that you are hearing the story by listening to Connie tell it as if she were having a sleeping dream. That’s right. You are sitting by her bed listening to her narrate the story deep in a sleeping dream.

“I am walking along a deserted street at night, and suddenly I run into my ex-boyfriend who has been stalking me. He begins yelling at me. ‘You are a horrible person. You treat me terribly. I am so disappointed.’ He raises his fist as if he’s going to strike me. I just stand there, entering into a no-mind state. He continues yelling, then he pauses, steps back, gives me a bewildered look, and runs away.”

Because you know that she is simply recounting a dream, the story does not have the impact and seduction that it might have once had. And, if we take it one step further, when Connie awakes from the dream, the events will quickly fade away into the nothingness from which they came.

As you listened to the narration of the dream, it was obvious that it was all going on only in her mind. As the center of the dream, all the images were seen through her eyes. She was peopling her world based on her past experiences. She was describing a world of time and space that existed only in her mind.

You may be catching a glimpse of a well-kept secret that there is absolutely no difference between a sleeping dream and a waking dream. If Connie were to wake up from her dream and see you sitting there, she is, in fact, not waking up at all; she is simply falling into another dream. Look at the parallels: Everything is going on only in her mind. She is peopling her world with images based on her past experiences. She is making up a world of time and space based on what she sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches. And her basic premise is that seeing is believing. It seems that the waking dream is more real than the sleeping dream, but this is not so.

Now we are in a position to take a hard look at the premises of Chard’s article, and replace them with new premises based on the transformation of your mind.

1. There is a world.
New premise: There is no world out there separate from our image making.

2. We are victims of the world we see.
New premise: We cannot be victims of a world we made up in the first place, unless we choose to be.

3.There are other people out there.
New premise: There are not people out there, separate from the peopling I do in my own mind, projecting images.

4. My ego-personality is real.
New premise: My ego-personality is the dreamer of the dream, both sleeping and waking.

The only way to see the truth of these premises is to recognize that there is no difference between a sleeping and a waking dream. This recognition requires the experience of non-dreaming state of mind, a place in your mind where you experience the peace of God. It is quite possible to discover this state through the mind training provided by Jesus’ other-worldly masterpiece, A Course in Miracles.

Listen to Jesus describe dreams.

Dreams show you that you have the power to make a world as you would have it be, and that because you want it you see it. And while you see it you do not doubt that it is real. Yet here is a world, clearly within your mind, that seems to be outside. You do not respond to it as though you made it, nor do you realize that the emotions the dream produces must come from you. It is the figures in the dream and what they do that seem to make the dream. You do not realize that you are making them act out for you. In (sleeping) dreams these features are not obscure. You seem to waken, and the dream is gone. Yet what you fail to recognize is that what caused the dream has not gone with it. Your wish to make another world that is not real remains with you. And what you seem to waken to is but another form of this same world you see in (sleeping) dreams. All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. They are your protest against reality, (This is the key—dreaming is a defense against experiencing the peace of God, your Reality as the truth of what you are). In your waking dreams, the special relationship is your determination to keep your hold on unreality, and to prevent yourself from waking. And while you see more value in sleeping (unreality) than in waking (Reality), you will not let go of it. T-18.5

This description by Jesus of the similarity of sleeping and waking dreams may still not be enough to convince you of the truth. It might be helpful to demonstrate exactly “how” it is that we dream.

Projection makes perception.

The word “projection” comes from the Latin, projectum, meaning “something thrown forward.” We throw an image-thought into the “world,” and then see it there. Perception comes from the Latin percipere, meaning “to seize completely”. So, what we decide to seize from what we “see out there” is that which we threw “out there” in the first place. It’s as if we are playing catch with ourselves. We throw a ball into the air and then we run under it and catch it. Throwing and receiving is like projecting and perceiving, and this happens so rapidly that we forget the connection. We go around and around in a causal loop, forgetting that we are the cause, and what we see is the effect. Our thoughts are the cause, and the "world" is the effect of our thoughts. That is why we can say there is no world, other than the world you see made up of your thought-images.

The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. And that is why order of difficulty in miracles is meaningless. Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. Nothing perceived without it means anything. And where there is no meaning, there is chaos. T-21.1

When you perceive through the eyes of the ego, you see chaos. When you look through the eyes of truth, you see with vision. That is what it means to change your mind. You can shift from the causal loop of perception to vision, when you ask for help to relinquish your images that are defending you from the peace of God. This vision is your inheritance because you are as God created you, His most Holy Son. And you are not alone. The Holy Spirit’s mission is to help you awaken from your dream.

Correction is for all who cannot see. To open the eyes of the blind is the Holy Spirit's mission, for he knows that they have not lost their vision, but merely sleep. He would awaken them from the sleep of forgetting to the remembering of God. Christ's eyes are open, and he will look upon whatever you see with love if you accept his vision as yours. T-12.V1.4:1-4

To look with vision rather than with ego eyes means to look through appearances since appearances are simply our thought-images projected out. Here is an analogy to convey what it means to say that you can see through and experience a reflection of your peaceful state of mind. Yesterday, on a bright summer morning, I was sitting on our deck reading the Course, and I came across these two sentences:

When the peace in you has been extended to encompass everyone, the Holy Spirit’s function here will be accomplished. What need is there for seeing then?

At that moment, experiencing gratitude and peace, I looked up and saw peace reflected because I was staring at the lush green of the pine boughs and the leaves of the lilac bushes and the trees, and it all appeared blurry, seeing everything as One. I was looking with soft eyes because I was, inadvertently, looking through the thick lenses of my reading glasses. This is what it means to look through appearances because I was not distinguishing one thing from another, naming this and that, thereby experiencing (seeing) the reflection of the peace of God. This is what it means to see with the vision of Christ.

The Holy Spirit keeps the vision of Christ for every Son of God who sleeps. In his sight the Son of God is perfect, and he longs to share his vision with you. He will show you the real world because God gave you Heaven. Through him your Father calls his Son to remember. The awakening of his Son begins with his investment in the real world, and by this he will learn to re-invest in himself. For reality is one with the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit blesses the real world in Their Name. T-12.1V.4:5-10

When you have seen this real world, as you will surely do, you will remember Us. Yet you must learn the cost of sleeping, and refuse to pay it. Only then will you decide to awaken. And then the real world will spring to your sight, for Christ has never slept. He is waiting to be seen, for he has never lost sight of you. He looks quietly on the real world, which he would share with you because he knows of the Father's Love for him. And knowing this, he would give you what is yours. In perfect peace he waits for you at his Father's altar, holding out the Father's love to you in the quiet light of the Holy Spirit's blessing. For the Holy Spirit will lead everyone home to his Father, where Christ waits as his Self. T-12.V1. 5

And now with these premises firmly “set in front of our eyes,” we can take a look at Chard’s column with the eyes of Christ, engaging in a Savior’s dialectic. “Dialectic” comes from the Greek dialektike, meaning “the art of investigating truth through discussion.” In the following discussion, we are looking through the falsity of the illusion with the truth of Christ’s Vision.
In the following dialogue, Chard’s column is in italics.


When the ego state of mind seems real, it can be either stressful or peaceful. If it’s stressful, slipping into no-mind seems to be a peaceful alternative. It is, in fact, exchange, a way to reconcile the opposites. It is, in fact, a denial of the role you are playing in the dreaming of the dream.

Connie knows how it feels to mentally disappear.

An advanced student of meditation, she can induce "no-mind," a state of consciousness in which one's sense of self temporarily fades or evaporates. Consequently, she experiences interludes when there is no discernible "me" in her awareness.

The “self” that fades is the ego, and her awareness shifts away from stress to another ego-state, but Connie still remains in her dream because her awareness has not shifted to her only Real state of mind, her Christ Self, where she can see with vision.

In Him you have no cares and no concerns,
no burdens, no anxiety, no pain,
no fear of future and no past regrets.
In timelessness you rest, while time goes by
without its touch upon you, for your rest
can never change in any way at all.
You rest today. And as you close your eyes,
sink into stillness. Let these periods
of rest and respite reassure your mind
that all its frantic fantasies were but
the dreams of fever that has passed away.
Let it be still and thankfully accept
its healing. No more fearful dreams will come,
now that you rest in God. Take time today
to slip away from dreams and into peace.

Resting in God is different than copping a moment of respite in no-mind awareness. For a moment, you seem to be not a victim of a world that seems real, while resting in God, on the other hand, is experiencing timelessness, the holy instant, an unworldly experience.

For many, that's a scary prospect, but non-meditators get a taste of no-mind when they are totally absorbed in an activity. At such moments, self-awareness dissipates, time slows and the boundary between me "in here" and a separate world "out there" blurs.

We have already established that there is no separate world out there.

The images you make cannot prevail
against what God Himself would have you be.
Be never fearful of temptation, then,
but see it as it is; another chance
to choose again, and let Christ's strength prevail
in every circumstance and every place
you raised an image of yourself before.

For what appears to hide the face of Christ
is powerless before His majesty,
and disappears before His holy sight.

No-mind is more than detachment. Imagine your identity as a drop of water and the rest of the universe as an ocean. When you experience no-mind, that drop (self) falls into the sea (all) and merges with an omnipresent unity.

This can be a helpful analogy, if you see that identity refers to the Self, as God created you, and that awareness of your Self is a holy instant, just as seeing with soft eyes shows us an omnipresent unity.

In the holy instant nothing happens that has not always been. Only the veil that has been drawn across reality is lifted. Nothing has changed. Yet the awareness of changelessness comes swiftly as the veil of time is pushed aside. No one who has not yet experienced the lifting of the veil, and felt himself drawn irresistibly into the light behind it, can have faith in love without fear. Yet the Holy Spirit gives you this faith, because He offered it to me (Jesus) and I accepted it. T-15.V1.6:1-6

In quiet listen to your Self today,
and let Him tell you God has never left
His Son, and you have never left your Self.

This state is certainly not no-mind; this is the holy instant.

In addition to furthering spiritual development, no-mind has practical applications, as Connie discovered in dramatic fashion.

Almost a year after breaking up with her boyfriend-turned-stalker, he confronted her in a potentially dangerous altercation. This misogynistic brute assailed her with a torrent of verbal abuse and physical intimidation.

Eyeball-to-eyeball with this bully, she intuitively used her spiritual training to remove her "self" from the confrontation.

"I stood there, got centered and entered a no-mind state," she recalled. "In any ego sense, I mostly disappeared."

This goon screamed at her and brandished his fist, but Connie remained steadfast in no-mind awareness. There was a tense pause until, inexplicably, he backed away, gave her an irritated but bewildered stare and then took off.

As dramatic as this confrontation is, it is crucial to remember that it is a dream sequence. Sinking into no-mind is a substitution for experiencing the Christ Mind, the eternal Self. The difference between the experiences of these mind states is about as subtle as the “b” in subtle because they feel quite similar. However, recognizing the different frames of reference is the key. The reference for the value of no-mind goes to the premises that there is a world, I can be a victim of this world, there are other people out there, and my ego is real. The reference for Christ Mind is that there is no world separate from my projected/perceived thought-images, I am not a victim of this world because I made it up, the other people are figures in my mind, and the ego personality has no source in Reality.

"Guys like him want to hurt your ego," she speculated. "Maybe when mine went away, he lost his target."

Like Connie, meditators sometimes employ no-mind consciousness to address real-world challenges. Because mental dysfunction is often tied to one's sense of self, loosening the ego's control can reduce emotional distress and alter vexatious interpersonal dynamics.

. . . real-world challenges. Real-world is an oxymoron.

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.

We are not born with a defined identity. Instead, through years of interaction and social brainwashing, we acquire one that, while necessary, is largely contrived.

As philosopher Alan Watts pointed out, "Our precious 'self' is just an idea, useful and legitimate enough if seen for what it is, but not our real nature."

. . .useful. Yes, we can learn to utilize our dreams by forgiving them, by relinquishing them. In the moment of letting go, we can come to experience the truth of what we are. This requires open-mind, not no-mind.

How do the open-minded forgive? They have let go all things that would prevent forgiveness. They have in truth abandoned the world, and let it be restored to them in newness and in joy so glorious they could never have conceived of such a change. Nothing is now as it was formerly. Nothing but sparkles now which seemed so dull and lifeless before. And above all are all things welcoming, for threat is gone.

Recognizing the dream, the illusion, takes away the apparent threat, and in the moment, the awareness of something else can enter in, the peace of God.

No clouds remain to hide the face of Christ. Now is the goal achieved. Forgiveness is the final goal of the curriculum. It paves the way for what goes far beyond all learning. The curriculum makes no effort to exceed its legitimate goal. Forgiveness is its single aim, at which all learning ultimately converges. It is indeed enough. M-4.X.2

While not easily learned, the ability to enter no-mind awareness reduces one's identification with the ego. Consequently, this skill can be applied to many challenging ego-driven scenarios - interpersonal confrontations, managing stress, defusing anger, etc.

If we simply take “time out” in a no-mind state, we are still making the ego real. However, the practice of no-mind is valuable if it enables you to reduce the identification with your ego-state and replace it with the recognition of your Christ-Mind.

Philosopher Thomas Carlyle said the ego is "the source and summary of all faults and miseries." When that source is put in its proper place, those faults and miseries often diminish accordingly.

When it comes to the ego, less is clearly more.

It is never a matter or more or less; it’s always a matter of Real or unreal.