Last week we put up our Christmas tree, strung it with brand new LED lights, adorned it with ornaments, and watched, aghast, as it fell down. The little dog, thankfully spared, spun in mad circles. I stood a moment, stunned, reflecting on the smashed crystal ballerina’s final pirouette, and the welcome beheading of the clumsily crafted snowman I had never much liked anyway. We wrestled the fir back into stately position in its plastic stand. My daughter and I steadied it as my husband rushed downstairs to grab a vice-like instrument in an effort to stabilize the base. He got it all cranked in. We stepped away, and … it fell down again, although we caught it this time mid-swoon.
We tried a length of twine next; attaching it to a nearby door handle but, alas, it fell down, much to the dog’s escalating consternation. There was nothing else to do. My husband dashed out the door to purchase a new tree stand before the stores closed, as my daughter and I stood gripping the tipsy Tannenbaum; she texting with her free hand, me bemused by the vintage recording of Brenda Lee singing “Rocking around, the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday” emanating from our stereo and marveling at my apparently unflappable right-mindedness.
Because this little scenario was exactly the sort of thing that might have catapulted pre-A Course in Miracles student Susan’s ego into a full-blown meltdown, seemingly triggered by the shattering of her persistent perfect family Christmas hallucinations. Instead, I remained pleasantly calm as we waited for my husband’s return and then worked together to settle the tree into its new stand where it finally achieved that all too elusive state of equilibrium. I swept up the debris of heirloom ornamental carnage, congratulating myself that all this forgiveness practice really was paying off, just as the Course promises it will.
That night, drifting off to visions of sugarplums doing their blissninny thing in my head, I dreamt that I had murdered someone. I didn’t remember the dastardly deed but somehow knew I had done it. I found myself in some kind of camp, unsure about what I was doing there, but certain I needed to escape, and fast, before the weather turned and dashed the possibility of making it over a nearby mountain pass. Still, I didn’t want to arouse suspicion and needed to get rid of the weapon—an enormous, gleaming blade with predatory teeth, part sword, part chain saw—first.
I wrapped it in a towel and carried it out of my cabin into some kind of communal center. In the lobby of the rustic building, a man worked at a carpentry table while a woman sat at a desk talking on a phone. I said hello before hurrying past them through an institutional style kitchen and out the screen door to a yard surrounded by pasture, intending to bury the knife behind a barn. But other people kept wandering over and trying to strike up a conversation. They did not ask what was in the towel, but stared at it knowingly, upping the ante on my already escalating anxiety. Furious, I finally stomped off toward the surrounding woods and hurled the weapon, rolled up the towel thinking to stash it in someone else’s cabin, and started running, guilt-fueled, faster than I have ever run, conscious I must leave this place before someone discovered what I had done.
I woke enveloped in the cliché of a cold sweat, contemplating the creation myth the Course uses to explain our descent into the darkness of the ego thought system, the one Son of God’s refusal to smile at the “tiny, mad idea” that it could separate from its source. The idea involved our desire to experience ourselves as individuals outside the realm of eternally perfect wholeness. As it arose in the one child of God’s mind and we forgot to laugh at the preposterous nature of fragmenting infinitely indivisible oneness, we imagined ourselves cast into darkness, the light of our source extinguished.
Thinking we had destroyed it, our one mind appeared to split into the ego and the Holy (Whole) Spirit. In our fear over our creator’s retribution and continuing selfish desire to sample individuality, we ignored the Holy Spirit’s certainty that the separation never happened and instead chose to believe the ego’s story that we had murdered our source. Mired in guilt and now perceiving ourselves fugitives from real love, we followed the ego into an entire projected universe of that thought of guilt in the mind, assumed bodies, fell asleep, and set to work projecting that guilt onto other bodies every time it began to rear its ugly head in our psyche. Magically believing the God we murdered would somehow rise again to punish us for our crime, we continue to defend ourselves and condemn others in an effort to establish our relative innocence versus their greater guilt.
Enter forgiveness A Course in Miracles-style, our only function here if we hope to begin to heal our minds of the persistent belief we murdered someone and must constantly flee the source of that original thought in the mind to protect ourselves from certain retribution. As workbook lesson 192, “I have a function God would have me fill,” tells us:
… Forgiveness represents your function here. It is not God’s creation, for it is the means by which untruth can be undone. …Yet on earth, you need the means to let illusions go. (From paragraph 2)
By practicing A Course in Miracles unique forgiveness—looking with the Holy (Whole) Spirit/Jesus, that symbol of the split mind healed of all impossible thoughts of fracture at our attempts to nurture the guilt in our mind by projecting it outward and then interpreting it as an incoming attack–we begin to change our mind about what’s really going on. In the holy instant in which we admit our error and accept what’s really happening, we sample the release and completeness permanently available to us once we allow the undoing of all our errors in judgment, return to uninterrupted right-mindedness, and finally awaken to the everlasting wholeness we remain.
But that happens at the very end. On this “journey without distance to a place we never left” we must patiently work with the forgiveness lessons that daily arise in what the Course calls the classroom of our life, that individual curriculum in which we learn from our inner teacher to change our minds about the special relationships we have crafted in which to conceal the proverbial murder weapon we all secretly believe we are toting.
Forgiveness gently looks upon all things unknown in Heaven, sees them disappear, and leaves the world a clean and unmarked slate on which the Word of God can now replace the senseless symbols written there before. Forgiveness is the means by which the fear of death is overcome, because it holds no fierce attraction now and guilt is gone. Forgiveness lets the body be perceived as what it is; a simple teaching aid, to be laid by when learning is complete, but hardly changing him who learns at all. (Paragraph 4)
The practice of learning the lessons of forgiveness has ancillary benefits. Focusing on forgiving our stories of unfair treatment at the hands of others day in and day out can help us heal our mind about the doomed-from-the-get-go special love bargains we make with others to substitute for the love we believe we destroyed and can never find again. We might even find ourselves this Christmas smiling with our inner amused teacher at the messiness of the ego thought system as it strives to preserve its impossible dream. Until we once again catch ourselves attempting to pin a thought of murder on someone or thing seemingly out there both to exonerate ourselves and to preserve an illusion of individuality that has, in truth, only brought us suffering.
And so, we choose again to accept our only function here and forgive, releasing ourselves from certain imprisonment by releasing our judgments of each other.
Therefore, hold no one prisoner. Release instead of bind, for thus are you made free. (From paragraph 9)