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1 Volume 16 Number 2 June 2005

GENTLE MEANS AND EASY TASKS


Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Introduction In Act IV of Shakespeares Othello, Desdemona, soon to be murdered by her husband in an unjustified fit of crazed jealousy, says: Those that do teach young babes Do it with gentle means and easy tasks (IV,ii). Though the context in which Desdemonas words occur is anything but gentle Othello has just cruelly labelled her a whorethey nonetheless offer a wonderful description of Jesus gentleness with us, his younger brothers and sisters. Indeed, throughout A Course in Miracles, Jesus refers to us as children, for in our spiritual awareness we are like children, totally unaware of the illusory nature of the world around us. Thus we need an elder brother to teach us gently, without demanding that we perform what is beyond our capabilitiesthe gentle means of forgiveness, and the easy tasks of its application to our special relationships. In this article we look at how Jesus is gentle and easy with us, modeling how we are to be with ourselves and with each other. A Gentle and Easy Fairy Tale We begin by examining one of the clearest, though often misunderstood ways in which Jesus demonstrates his kind gentleness, exemplifying the principle of not further frightening those who are already afraid (T-2.IV.5). As he says in the text, he must ... use the language that this [separated] mind can understand, in the condition in which it thinks it is. ... [he] must use all learning to transfer illusions to the truth, taking all false ideas of what you are, and leading you beyond them to the truth that is beyond them (T-25.I.7:4-5). Thus Jesus brings his non-dualistic truth to the fearful and dualistic world in which we, his frightened younger siblings, find ourselves, addressing his message of forgiveness to the guilt-ridden minds that still believe they are separated. By this gentle and loving means, he leads us through the illusions to the truth. Consider the story Jesus tells us about God and His response to the tiny, mad idea. The Course teaches that the ego speaks first and is wrong (T-5.VI.3:5; 4:2), and the Holy Spirit is the answer. Therefore, Jesus answer to the ego is framed within the contours the ego has first established, with which we have already identified. Yet does he keep these contours and shift to a kind and loving content, illustrating the important teaching that the Holy Spirit does not take away our special relationships, but transforms them by changing their purpose (e.g., T17.IV.2:3-6). Jesus gentle and easy fairy tale lovingly tells his younger siblings of their Fathers Love, correcting the egos harsh, cruel, and deceptive nightmare of His wrath. The egos tale of sin, guilt, and fear was designed to instill the fear of God in the mind of His dreaming Son, causing him to leave his home in the split mind and make a mindless physical world of time and space, inhabited by bodies. Thus, the Son is told that his separation was born of his wish to have a self that was independent of his Source. This act, labeled sin by the ego, constituted the

2 usurping of Gods role as Creator, not to mention His destruction at the hands of His Son. The ensuing guilt set up fear of the future, which drove the Son out of his mindliterally and figuratively. Into this mindless dream of self-hatred and terror, Jesus enters to soothe his brothers and sisters by telling them a different tale, one designed to comfort and bless, at the same time it gently awakens them from the egos nightmare of guilt and death. Recall this description of the Holy Spirits gentle correction: How can you wake children in a more kindly way than by a gentle Voice that will not frighten them, but will merely remind them that the night is over and the light has come? ... You merely reassure them that they are safe now. ... The Holy Spirit never itemizes errors because He does not frighten children, and those who lack wisdom are children. ... Children do confuse fantasy and reality, and they are frightened because they do not recognize the difference. The Holy Spirit makes no distinction among dreams. He merely shines them away (T-6.V.2:1,3; 4:1,3-5). Therefore, using the language of children to reassure us we are safe now, Jesus gently holds us in his arms as he whispers softly that all is well: Our Father is not angry. To the contrary, He misses us, is lonely without our presence, andweeps over our having left home (T-2.III.5:11; T-5.VII.4:5). Moreover, as proof of His Love for us, He created the Holy Spirit to come into our sleeping minds and gently awaken us from our dreams of abandonment and betrayal. This kind story leaves us with the easy task of accepting the loving truth of his words by rejecting the harsh sounds of the egos tale of guilt and pain. Were we not so gently held and lovingly comforted, the task of turning away from the ego would be well nigh impossible, and we would remain forever condemned to a life of futility, bitterly coping with the egos truths of a life born of fear, lived in fear, and ending in fear. In its place, Jesus offers us a life lived under the gentle means of forgiveness, to which we now turn. Thus he meets us where we believe we are, and with great and loving care leads us down his easy path that takes us back to the loving Arms we never left. Being Gentle and Easy with Ourselves The very fact we are here in a body, identifying ourselves as students of A Course in Miracles, tells us we are creatures of fear, for only the fearful come into the dream that is the world: Fear is the one emotion of the world. Its forms are manycall them what you willbut it is one in content. ... Each ... [dream] contains the whole of fear, the opposite of love, the hell that hides the memory of God, the crucifixion of His holy Son (The Gifts of God, pp. 11516). Yet, despite the fearful aspects of the road that leads out of the world, the path of forgiveness is gentle and easy, for it asks so little of us. As Jesus says of his course: This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more (T-20.VII.1:7-8). We are not asked to change ourselves or perform herculean spiritual feats, but merely to look at the ego without judgment: Forgiveness ... is still, and quietly does nothing. ... It merely looks, and waits, and judges not (W-pII.1.4:1,3). No effort is required, therefore, except to undo our resistance to this gentle and easy process, born of the fear of losing our special identity. It is this fear of

3 being without specialness that makes the gentleness of forgiveness become an experience of pain and difficulty. And yet even here we are not asked to struggle against this fear, which is why Jesus tells us: And if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself (T-30.I.1:6-7). We are the ones who make this process of undoing difficult, simply by our reactions to the ego. Recall the original problem: Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects (T-27.VIIL6:2-3). The problem was not the tiny, mad idea of being separate from God, but rather choosing to listen to the ego and taking it seriously. Extrapolating to our everyday experiences, the problems are never the formsthe external manifestations of guiltbut our internal reactions to these problems. In other words, we are not asked to deny what our eyes see, but only the egos interpretation of what they see; choosing vision over judgment. Thus, asking Jesus to help us with our resistance means looking at it without judgment. It is not a sin to be afraidYou have not sinned, but you have been mistaken (T-19.IVB.11:8)but judging oneself for it makes the error a sin, which we believe deserves punishment, not correction. In these contexts, remembering to laugh means being able to forgive oneself for being afraid of the truth. Since all our mistakes are one, by forgiving one expression we forgive them all. All mistakes are one mistake; all corrections are one Correctionregardless of their forms: The tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one mistake, held also the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first (T-26.V.3:5). Such understanding is wonderfully freeing, for it allows us not to be affected by the many vicissitudes of our ever- changing world. Regardless of external events or the shifting moods of those around us, we can remain at peace, if we so choose. We can therefore be gentle with ourselves, for our lives become easy once we learn from Jesus the unity of all relationships and eventsnot in form, but in content. His love within our right minds remains constant, and is the foundation for our gentle response to all circumstances in our lives. Thus are we freed of the terrible and unending burden of trying to make the imperfect perfect, which can be likened to trying to fill a sieve with watera thankless and hopeless task if there ever were one. We are then liberated from the egos plan to divert our attention from the mindthe source of the problem and the answerso that we focus only on the external, along with the difficulties of life in the body. But seeing the problem only in the minds mistaken choice for the ego, and the solution only in the minds corrected choice for the Holy Spirit, simplifies our living by unifying our classroom. Jesus invites us to share his gentleness as we look with him at the minds decision, forgiving our errors as we are grateful for our easy lessons. If, however, we are not gentle and easy with ourselves, able to overlook our expressions of fear, how could we then be gentle and easy with others? In the end, of course, forgiveness is onewhether we forgive another or ourselves. By learning to be gently forgiving of our own egos, the process of doing likewise for others becomes easy. And so we shift our attention to the outer expressions of our special relationship with the ego, the means this course uses to heal the mind. The Gentle and Easy Path of Forgiving Our Special Relationships

4 If we follow Jesus previously quoted words about the Holy Spirit, we will never itemize the errors of another, seeking to make their particular sins justified fodder for our egos hungry dogs of fear (T-19.IV-A.11-15). We would recognize, following from what we discussed in the previous section, that no matter how heinous the crime or egregious the sin, the fact remains that fear of love is the ultimate motivator for all wrong-minded behavior. Thus we place them in one categorymistakes born of fear. In this manner we allow ourselves to be taught by the Holy Spirit, as we saw above, not to be afraid of the egos dreams. If we perceive mistakes instead of sins, there is no malice, and so there can be no fear of attack and consequently no need for defense. Since fear, therefore, is unnecessary as a defense against the truth of love, and moreover is illusory, our function could not be simpler. After all, accepting what is true is the easiest thing in the world. It is resisting its simplicity that is difficult and enervating. And so we remember these words of Jesus, which echo Desdemonas quiet wisdom: How simple is salvation! All it says is what was never true is not true now, and never will be. ... Can this be hard to learn by anyone who wants it to be true? Only unwillingness to learn it could make such an easy lesson difficult. ... [Salvation] teaches but the very obvious. It merely goes from one apparent lesson to the next, in easy steps that lead you gently from one to another, with no strain at all (T-31.I.1:1-2,5-6; 2:3-4; italics mine). And from the manual, the way out: Give up what you do not want, and keep what you do. How simple is the obvious! And how easy to do! (M-4.I.6:6-8) Using the Jesus of A Course in Miracles as our model, we learn to be kind and easy with each other, giving up the guilt we do not truly want and accepting the peace that we do. This, however, is impossible as long as our special needs conscious or notare present to distort our perception, ultimately having us see others only as separate objects existing to meet our needs. Thus we see shadows of our pasts of scarcity and deprivation, which justify our current special love and hate perceptions. Our brothers and sisters, companions on the journey, are misperceived as potential means of satisfying our cannibalistic appetites for the priceless pearls of innocence the ego tells us we desperately need to survive. How then could we remember that we journey together, or not at all (T-19.IVD.12:8)? Readers of my book on Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, may recall her experience on the Atlantic City boardwalk: Several times that summer I felt something like the subway experience of years before [an earlier experience when Helen felt an indescribable love for people on the New York City subway]. ... It generally took place in a crowd of people, for whom I could feel a brief but powerful affinity. One took place on a warm evening when Louis [Helens husband] and I were walking along a crowded resort boardwalk. A sudden sense of deep emotional closeness to everyone there swept over me, with a clear and certain recognition that we were all making the same journey together to a common goal. Helen later recalled the incident more specifically in a letter to William Thetford, her partner in the Courses scribing, written in the summer preceding the Course coming through her: One evening we were walking and Jonathan [Helens other name for Louis] pointed out a brain-injured boy (about 12 or so) who was being pushed by his parents in a carriage. There were other cripples [an Anglicism for the retarded] there, too. As we walked I suddenly ... got a sense of everyone walking happily and very much together on the same path ... well

5 all make it home eventually. Sometimes I love everybody very much (pp.115, 140). How could we not feel love and compassion for every living thing, to cite Buddhas famous teaching, knowing we share the same disability of spiritual weakness and the need to awaken together from its separation nightmare of suffering and pain? How could we not love everybody very much when we realize we are part of the same self that needs to be gathered together, as we read in this prayer of Jesus from the late second-century Gnostic text, The odes of Solomon: And I sowed my fruits in hearts, and transformed them into myself: and they received my blessing and lived; And they were gathered to me and were saved; because they were to me as my own members and I was their head. In another Gnostic text, The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Christian despite its title, Jesus echoes this same thought: I came to my own and united them with myself. Jesus gathering of his own unto himself reflects the reuniting of the split-off Sonship that had fragmented into the world of materialityjoined again as one light, one love, one Son. While we still believe we are here in the body, this vision of oneness is expressed by our not giving power to the appearances of separation and differences, to which the body and world witness. Thus, while our eyes see a world in which specialness reigns, our healed minds perceive only expressions of love or calls for it. Either way, our response that is born of Jesus love for us can only be love. And so he asks of us: Dream softly of your sinless brother, who unites with you in holy innocence. ... Dream of ... [his] kindnesses instead of dwelling in your dreams on his mistakes. Select his thoughtfulness to dream about instead of counting up the hurts he gave. ... And do not brush aside his many gifts because he is not perfect in your dreams (T-27.VII. 15:1,3-4,6). Indeed, no one is perfect here, and it would hardly be loving to insist we, or others, be without blemish. Yet we can allow ourselves to feel the pain behind everyones imperfections, including our own, thereby looking kindly on anothers mistakes and recognizing the fear behind the maladaptive attempts to somehow survive at someone elses expense the mistake of the world. Behind these ego thoughts, we all carry within us the memory of our perfection as Gods Son, at one with Him and all creation. Thus the gap between this perfect memory and our imperfect experience is the seat of all pain and sickness, as we read: The gap is little. Yet it holds the seeds of pestilence and every form of ill, because it is a wish to keep apart and not to join. ... The purpose of the gap is all the cause that sickness has. For it was made to keep you separated, in a body which you see as if it were the cause of pain (T-28.III. 4:2-3,5-6). No one but walks the earth without trying to cope with this deep pain, whose cause is kept concealed within the gap of separation, for all wander here uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear (T-31.VIII.7:1). Some deny this under special cloaks of happiness, peace, and love, while others project the pain outright, seeking to impose it on another, displacing responsibility for their own suffering. Yet Jesus kindness to us, reflecting his gentle means and easy tasks, becomes our model for responding to anothers fear, regardless of its form of expression. Having experienced his forgiving love, we are able to step aside from the ego and allow the gentle kindness of this love to flow easily through our minds, embracing those who may not know it. Thus we offer the gift we have received and become one with it both its Source and Its effects. With a joy that is not of this world, we can join with

6 Jesus in praying to our God: In joyous welcome is my hand outstretched to every brother who would join with me in reaching past temptation, and who looks with fixed determination toward the light that shines beyond in perfect constancy. ... And as each one elects to join with me, the song of thanks from earth to Heaven grows from tiny scattered threads of melody to one inclusive chorus from a world redeemed from hell, and giving thanks to You (T-31.VIII.11:1,5). And so our arms open in gentleness to hold those in love who still fear it, and as we comfort those who tremble, our love reminds them of the gentle means and easy tasks with which we reached this quiet center, the garden of love that beckons to the world that still believes it lives in a desert of death: The desert becomes a garden, green and deep and quiet, offering rest to those who lost their way and wander in the dust. Give them a place of refuge, prepared by love for them where once a desert was. ... The love they brought with them will stay with them, as it will stay with you. And under its beneficence your little garden will expand, and reach out to everyone who thirsts for living water, but has grown too weary to go on alone. ... And you will recognize yourself, and see your little garden gently transformed into the Kingdom of Heaven, with all the Love of its Creator shining upon it (T-18.VIII.9:3-4,7-8; 10:4). How joyful to give what we have received! How full our gratitude for the loving brother whose gentleness brought us this joy! How loved we are, for Love has never ceased to call us home! Thus we all answer the call together, for it sings in each of us as one, gently calling us to walk the easy path of forgiveness, lovingly guided by the quiet wisdom of Love, that we be but Itself.