Friday, February 20, 2009

Hand in Glove: The Presence Process and A Course in Miracles

I first came across A Course in Miracles in the late fall of 1986. Christine persuaded me to go with her to a Meditation Class that met Sunday evenings at the local community college, Kalamazoo Valley, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During one of the classes, a woman gave a thirty-minute introduction to the Course. Recently, I had seen the Course in a bookstore, and I looked through it and put it back on the shelf, having no idea what it was about. On Monday, the very next day after her introduction, I went out and bought it and began devouring the Text. In all of my reading prior to that time, I had never come across anything like it. Incidentally, Christine and I were married three years later, and the Course proved to be a firm foundation for our marriage.

I first came across the book, The Presence Process, late last fall. My son, Stephen, thirty-nine, has joined us at Endeavor Academy, and he had begun doing the Presence Process and kept telling me what incredible experiences he was having. I began reading the book in December and Christine and I started the Presence Process Sessions soon after. The first thing that struck me about the book was the writing. Michael Brown’s prose sparkles on the page. The words, sentences and paragraphs lead the reader to powerful experiences.

So what is present moment awareness? It is a state of Being in which we effortlessly integrate the authentic and Divine Presence that we are with each God-given moment that we are in so that we are able to respond consciously to every experience we are having. By accomplishing this, our response is always the same: gratitude—a flow of gratitude that washes us of all our illusions. Entering such a state may sound hard and complicated when we are living in time. It is, however, effortless and completely natural because present moment awareness is our birthright. It is the kingdom of awareness through whose gates the prodigal children return. The hard part has been attempting to find what we did not know we had lost. The best part is realizing that we have been looking for something that has already found us. (Michael Brown, The Presence Process, Namaste Publishing: Vancouver, Canada, 2007), pp. 13, 14

The Presence Process is so powerful because it engages you in a process that integrates perfectly with the Course. The book offers an Introduction and then guides you through 10 seven-day Sessions. Each session has an explanatory chapter, an Activating Statement, e.g., for Session One it is I choose to experience this moment, and two-15 minute Breathing Exercises, one just after awakening in the morning, and the second just before crawling into bed at night.

The Presence Process is a guided journey that contains all the practical technique, perceptual tools, and knowledge required to consciously extract our attention from the illusions and trappings of time in order that we may reenter the present moment of life. (Brown, p. 1)

Now I want to demonstrate the powerful integration of A Course in Miracles and The Presence Process. Rather than demonstrate the connections in abstract terms, I offer a concrete example.

On Tuesday morning, February 10, after doing the 15-minute Breathing Exercise, I first read Lesson 41, God goes with me wherever I go, and then I read the first couple of pages of the explanatory material for Session 10 in The Presence Process. I was astounded at the opportunity for integration, and I realized that I could juxtapose passages from the Lesson with passages from The Presence Process.

God goes with me wherever I go.

Today's idea will eventually overcome completely the sense of loneliness and abandonment all the separated ones experience. Depression is an inevitable consequence of separation. So are anxiety, worry, a deep sense of helplessness, misery, suffering and intense fear of loss.

For me, it always comes down to awareness. Is my awareness on my experience of being one with God, or is my awareness on my thoughts that have no source in reality, inevitably causing depression?

The separated ones have invented many "cures" for what they believe to be "the ills of the world." But the one thing they do not do is to question the reality of the problem. Yet its effects cannot be cured because the problem is not real.

When my awareness is on separation, I think that the ills of the world are the cause of my upset.

The universal Law of cause and effect states that “when we seek, we shall find” and “what we ask for, we shall receive.” Therefore, the automatic and unfaltering consequence of this Law is that we will always see only what we are looking for, and all the experiences that we have in our life will always be exactly what we have been asking for. In other words, our life and the way we experience it is the ongoing answer to questions that we have been asking and continue to ask. The reason why this may not immediately be apparent to us is that most of our looking and asking is taking place unconsciously based on a whole range of belief systems (misinterpretations) that we adopted as children.
(Brown, p. 253)
This is where the Presence Process is particularly helpful because it reminds us that our belief in separation as cause is a deeply-ingrained belief instilled, or imprinted, in us as children. Like the Course, The Presence Process offers a step-by-step process to help us cleanse our belief systems. This process enables us to bring to the surface our unconscious, imprinted beliefs, recognize them, and ask for help to let them go. In this manner we learn that we are the cause of our reactions to what appears to be the ills out there and these ills are merely effects of our beliefs. We formed these beliefs by the age of seven, and now they can be cleansed.

Here is an example of how the cleansing process works. The other day I passed an acquaintance in the hallway, and her face remained completely expressionless as we nodded in greeting. I walked on with a nervous feeling in my stomach. Her expressionless face had triggered this reaction in me, but she was not the cause.

The cause was in my early childhood. I remember my father as being stoic, his face usually expressionless, regardless of what was going on. I often felt that I should be en garde around him, not knowing what was going on with him as far as my behavior. Obviously, I am still affected to this day by this unconscious belief. Now it is simply a matter of bringing this to the surface and cleansing it.

In The Presence Process, this requires four steps.

1. Dismiss the messenger. Rather than dwell on the woman who walked by, dismiss her from my thoughts, immediately. She is effect, not cause.

Internally, we can thank her for her great service and let her be on her way. (Brown, p. 200)

2. Get the message. Find one word that captures the emotional reaction: nervousness.

3. Experience the message. Feel it to heal it.

Our choice to now be present with whatever upsets us enables us to realize that we can physically feel within our body what we initially thought was happening” out there.”
(Brown, p. 201)

4. Ask for help to let it go, recognizing its unreality, becoming aware of the peace of God, knowing that God goes with me wherever I go. Once we can feel this emotional blockage as a physical sensation within our own body, we are ready to transmute it with “divine alchemy” by moving it out of our body by applying the power of our compassionate Presence. (Brown, p. 201)

The idea for today has the power to end all this foolishness forever. And foolishness it is, despite the serious and tragic forms it may take.

Therefore, if we do not like what we see or the quality of what we are experiencing, it is our responsibility to go within to access and then change our unconscious causal beliefs. No one can do this for us. Having the ability to do this for ourselves is exactly what free will is. This is exactly what freedom is. This is what true responsibility is. This is what The Presence Process has given us the opportunity to accomplish. (Brown, p. 253)

Deep within you is everything that is perfect, ready to radiate through you and out into the world. It will cure all sorrow and pain and fear and loss because it will heal the mind that thought these things were real, and suffered out of its allegiance to them.

You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go. Nothing can destroy your peace of mind because God goes with you wherever you go.

We understand that you do not believe all this. How could you, when the truth is hidden deep within, under a heavy cloud of insane thoughts, dense and obscuring, yet representing all you see?

And these insane thoughts are unconscious, until I bring them to the surface.

There is a gap between every other human being and us. This gap is the space between us. This gap appears real because of our physical body. In the gap between everyone else and us is where the world manifests. What we call “our world” is this gap.

It is obvious that the woman in the hallway is the Christ. But by focusing my awareness on her expression, I am making the gap real, preventing us from joining.

Because our physical body leads us to believe that this gap is real, we automatically believe that we can be separated from others. We believe that our body is separate from the bodies of others and that we therefore have our own physical sensations. We believe that we have our own mind and therefore our own thoughts. We believe that we have our own heart and therefore our own emotions. We believe that we have our own spirit and therefore our own spiritual experiences. This perception leads us to believe that when we are not in the company of another human being, we are therefore on our own. Having a physical body allows us to believe that we can be alone. (Brown, p. 253)

Today we will make our first real attempt to get past this dark and heavy cloud, and to go through it to the light beyond.

We have thought of someone and then bumped into him or her or received a phone call from them within minutes. We have felt something behind us and turned around to see someone watching us. We have found that as we are about to utter a thought, someone standing next to us has expressed it for us. We have been about to confide in someone as to how we feel emotionally when they have pre-empted us by telling us that they are having the same emotional experience. We have also had spiritual or philosophical insights, experiences or realizations that we thought were unique to our experience, only to hear others verbalizing that they had just recently had the same experience, insight, or realization.

We can call these “Oneness Experiences” being psychic, transference, intuition, empathy, telepathy, or the outcome of being sensitive. It does not matter what name we give them; what matters is that we adjust our beliefs about the nature of our paradigm according to the ongoing proof that is being laid before us by these “Oneness Experiences.” The proof inherent in the Oneness experiences reveals to us:

That our physical bodies, though appearing separate, are not; they are connected energetically somehow to every other body.

That our mind is not the physical brain in our head; its capacities extend beyond the confines of our physical body to any distance that we care to think about.

That our emotional experiences are not confined to us alone; they are shared by the world around us.
That our ongoing and unfolding spiritual awareness is not personal or exclusive; it is universal and inclusive. (Brown, p. 254)

The Presence in me is One with the Presence in the woman in the hallway. Since we are One, I can realize that the Presence activated her behavior, giving me an opportunity to bring to the surface and cleanse an unconscious belief, freeing me up to experience our Oneness, making it clear that I am the cause, I am responsible, thereby holding her harmless.

Brown makes a helpful play on words, when he turns around the word "upset," making it "set up," enabling me to realize that the Presence uses my upset to set me up, so that I can take the opportunity to cleanse it.

There will be only one long practice period today. In the morning, as soon as you get up if possible, sit quietly for some three to five minutes, with your eyes closed. At the beginning of the practice period, repeat today's idea very slowly.
God goes with me wherever I go.

Then make no effort to think of anything. Try, instead, to get a sense of turning inward, past all the idle thoughts of the world. Try to enter very deeply into your own mind, keeping it clear of any thoughts that might divert your attention.

From time to time, you may repeat the idea if you find it helpful. But most of all, try to sink down and inward, away from the world and all the foolish thoughts of the world. You are trying to reach past all these things. You are trying to leave appearances and approach reality.

Appearances are caused by my unconscious beliefs, but the awareness of reality is always present.

It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world. The way will open, if you believe that it is possible. This exercise can bring very startling results even the first time it is attempted, and sooner or later it is always successful. We will go into more detail about this kind of practice as we go along. But it will never fail completely, and instant success is possible.

As we approach the experience of Oneness, which is the intimate connectedness of our Inner Presence with each other and all life, we must keep in mind that we are all still unconsciously enslaved by ancient limited belief systems that have been diligently passed down through the generations. From the moment we entered our present life experience, we automatically inherited these ancient beliefs from our parents. Let us begin, therefore, by acknowledging that by their very nature, these ancient beliefs about “how the world is” are completely out of date. Even though they are familiar and therefore comfortable to the mind, they are ineffectual. We can acknowledge that they may at one point in our evolution have served us, but now they no longer do. Now they limit us and maintain the mistaken illusion that we are separate from one another, that we can be alone, and that we must “go out and get ours” or else we will go without.

These outdated belief systems are the foundations of all our present experiences of lack. They are also the foundations of all fear, anger, and grief. With the proof that our present day Oneness experiences have placed and continue placing before us, maintaining the belief that we are separate from each other on any levels madness. It is delusional. It is denial. It is the same as believing that the earth is flat when we can clearly see the curve of the open horizon before us.
(Brown, p. 255)

Throughout the day use today's idea often, repeating it very slowly, preferably with eyes closed.

God goes with me wherever I go.

Think of what you are saying; what the words mean. Concentrate on the holiness that they imply about you; on the unfailing companionship that is yours; on the complete protection that surrounds you.

The best way to approach this massive updating of our perception is that we can accommodate the experience of Oneness is to consciously invite the experience of the Oneness paradigm to come flooding into our awareness. We can begin this process effortlessly by choosing from this moment onward to believe that we are One with all life around us. In the same breath, we can invite our daily occurrences to confirm this for us through personal experience.

Ask and you will receive.

In other words, we can activate The Law of Cause and Effect; we can consciously look for evidence that we are one body, one mind, one heart, and one spirit. By looking for it, we will see it because The Law of Cause and Effect states that we will always see what we are looking for.

Seek and you will find. (Brown, p. 256)

You can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with you wherever you go.

Every time we have a Oneness experience and contain it, we will digest it. The nutritional benefit of holding these experiences within will be that our faith in the Oneness paradigm will grow into a “knowing” that will permeate our consciousness and daily experience in spite of what the world may believe is so.

“Faith” does not require outside support: only “belief” does.

After agreeing to contain and digest what we experience, we can then accelerate the process of inviting this Oneness paradigm to flood our awareness. We can accomplish this by taking an active step towards having this paradigm confirmed for us; we can choose to live this way on purpose. Accomplishing this is simple. Accomplishing this is what The Presence Process has been leading us towards. This is the invitation inherent in experiencing our own Inner Presence. Oneness is the terrain of present moment awareness. (Brown, p. 257)

God goes with me wherever I go.