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I sat at my desk, cross-legged in my chair, eyes closed; calling to mind the face of someone I’ve been struggling to forgive for a long time. Offering a silent apology with as much sincerity as I could find in my slowly unfurling heart for the many ways in which I had used him to embellish my story of seeking and never finding. The tale of ill-fated suffering I was learning I had woven in an effort to keep the fiction of a separate me alive all these years, while denying responsibility for it. The many repetitive accusations I had leveled at this person in my thoughts that seemed impossible to release slowly appeared one by one on the screen in my head beneath his face, like captions anchoring a photograph. And I suddenly understood exactly what the Course means when it asks us to consider as it does in workbook lesson 134, paragraph 9:
“…When you feel that you are tempted to accuse someone of sin in any form, do not allow your mind to dwell on what you think he did, for that is self-deception. Ask instead: ‘Would I accuse myself of doing this?’”
It struck me like a blow to the solar plexus that I had, in fact, accused myself of doing this. And this, and this, and this, and this. My blindness lifted for a moment in my longing to share the truth my right mind knows, and I could see clearly in the bright light of forgiveness how every accusation I had made about this person described my own deeply denied faults. The ones I’d carried all my life, never once daring to utter aloud in the confessional of my childhood. How I’d found the perfect canvas seemingly “out there” on which to paint them, that I might convince myself over and over again they were real but belonged to someone else.
“I’m so sorry,” I silently told the image in my mind. Sorry for projecting my inability to forgive myself for these perceived “sins”—but symbols of my belief in separation–on you. Sorry for rigidly portraying you as my antagonist rather than seeing you as but another fragment of the one child of God we remain. Doing your best to survive here as a fugitive from real, eternally whole Love, just like I am; likewise secretly convinced you will blow your cover if you don’t spend every conscious moment picturing the problem “out there” rather than looking within.
I gazed into the eyes of my projection, genuine remorse welling up inside, blinking back welcome tears of recognition that we really were the same. We shared the same repressed belief in what A Course in Miracles calls “the tiny, mad idea” that the one child of God in truth seamlessly fused with our creator could defect from our eternally unified source. The belief in which gave rise to a guilt so crushing our one mind appeared to split into an ego (the part of our mind that forgot to smile at the preposterous notion), the Holy (Whole) Spirit (the part of our mind that remembered to smile), and the decision maker, the part of our mind that selfishly sided with the ego’s version of the myth. Choosing to follow it into an entire universe of projected forms, assuming individual bodies to prove we exist but it’s not our fault, and then falling asleep to insure we never returned to the mind to choose again for our unalterably, all-inclusive, infinitely loving truth.
The dream seems so real, its figures so convincing, its performances so winning. However bizarre its plot, we believe it, and react from our belief. We feel elation and pain, excitement and grief, anger and regret; the cramped and stifling nature of trying to experience love between and within bodies deliberately invented to limit it. Our fortunes deliciously, deliriously wax and wane. We bond together and bargain to get our needs met and when our contracts are broken, we condemn others for breaking them. While secretly rejoicing in their greater guilt that at least temporarily gets us off the hook for that nagging original guilt we sense within that never goes away for long, however gifted at projection we become.
As I sat gazing into the eyes of my seeming nemesis, yearning to see clearly, I suddenly experienced the remorse Ken Wapnick had been talking about in a CD set I’d been listening to that had seemed so puzzling, versus the guilt the ego would have us reinforce in our efforts to foist our self-condemnation on others. A gentle remorse that recognizes our sameness, versus a guilt that insists on empowering our differences. “I’m sorry,” I silently repeated, sorry for refusing to forgive the badass self I keep insisting on seeing in you. A self that remains innocent of a crime that never occurred, despite my guilty, tortured fantasies. “I’m sorry,” I repeated, and really meant it. I was just afraid of losing my mistaken self, just like you.
But there was nothing in truth to fear, I could see that now; guilty dreams have no effects upon the truth. Only gratitude to you for revealing the mirage of my specialness to me, and the welcome, loving light it concealed. A funny thing happened then. The face in my mind now smiling back at me faded, replaced by another face, and another, and another. An entire forgiveness slide show of past figures in the long dream of Susan revealed themselves, complete with captions of my judgments, pausing for reevaluation and release. In each case, I saw our sameness, first in its fearful dream state, and then in its certain, abstract, awakened innocence. And I gave thanks for this practice, this forgiveness slide show that enabled me to review my mistaken perceptions with the inner teacher of love instead of fear. Allowing me to open my eyes and begin this day again, realigned with peace.
“Do not be afraid to look within. The ego tells you all is black with guilt within you, and bids you not to look. Instead, it bids you look upon your brothers, and see the guilt in them. Yet this you cannot do without remaining blind. For those who see their brothers in the dark, and guilty in the dark in which they shroud them, are too afraid to look upon the light within. Within you is not what you believe is there, and what you put your faith in.
Within you is the holy sign of perfect faith your Father has in you. He does not value you as you do. He knows Himself, and knows the truth in you. He knows there is no difference, for He knows not of differences. Can you see guilt where God knows there is perfect innocence? You can deny His knowledge, but you cannot change it. Look, then, upon the light He placed within you, and learn that what you feared was there has been replaced with love.”
-A Course in Miracles, Chapter 13, IX. The Cloud of Guilt, paragraphs 6 and 7.