Moving Beyond Ideals

comments 15
Christ / Course Ideas

One of the principal aims of the Course of Love is to put us in position to respond freely to what is, to be in ongoing and dynamic relationship with all that is, and to move altogether beyond self concepts.  Concepts are images- ideals and patterns.  What lies beyond all of our conceptual selves, is the true Self that we are…  Right now…  Jesus speaks with a sense of urgency in many points of the Course of Love, because he is eager for us to accept this shared identity in Christ- to accept our place within Unity- right now.

Yes, the end is assured, and inevitable.

Yes, as the Course in Miracles stated, time is illusory, being but the seeming distance we have placed between ourselves and the full acceptance of the Truth.  But the intervening period- our experience in time- is full of suffering.  Needless suffering.  Who, speaking from compassion, would not urgently desire that his brothers and sisters step away from the torment, and recover the lifelong ability to breath easy?  To know a world without strangers?  To enjoy perpetual contentment?  To be able to offer response to any situation without thinking, simply because what we have to offer is the natural flow through us of what is, to what is.  I can see that to do this, I would need to be utterly emptied of questions about who I am, so that my addiction to using events and moments as opportunities to “create” myself, or to prove to myself how [insert adjective defining the ideal self here] I am, would be forever undone.

That is freedom I think.

I think I am coming to see that the process of unlearning Jesus speaks of in A Course of Love is, at least in part, the process of encountering concepts that I live by, and the confusion against which these concepts once guarded me.  How often do I ask myself what I should be doing?  How should I respond to such and such situation?  Here’s a great one to really get myself feeling positive about such deliberation: what would Jesus do?  While much can come of this question, if it moves us into the open-ended flow of being for instance, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter!  Jesus wants to aid us in discovering the foundation within which renders all such questions moot.  He wants us to respond as who we are, as only we can respond.  Jesus can’t make the response that only you or I can…  He made his own…  We are called to offer ours…

It would undoubtedly be easier if we had a manual- but it wouldn’t be real.  It wouldn’t be living.  It wouldn’t be True.  Computers can follow rules.  They cannot have the conscious experience of living Truth.  They cannot have the experience of blessing, and being blessed, simply by being who they are…

I wrote recently about self-consciousness, and the notion of living up to an ideal, and in the time since I have observed some patterns at work within myself that are related I think.  I am finding myself in situations that feel, to me, prickly.  I’m not sure what the right way to respond is.  Mining this confusion, (which is suffering), I find I have some patterns that have worked well often in my life, but which need to be chucked out of the way.  They are like stones in the blender of emptiness.

The desire to be a good person.

The desire to be respected and admired by the people around me.

The desire to be liked and accepted.

These are doozies.  What is so awful about wanting to be a good person?  Or admired for living by principles, or being a person of your word?  Nothing, really, except they’re pointless exercises of the uncertain…  They’re traps…  Because maybe, I will fall short…  These prickly situations I encounter are begging me to prove this to myself.

As the extension of the Mind of God, as an integral and unique fractal of all Creation, as holiness and wholeness expressing- what do these seemingly ‘good’ desires have to offer?  They are meaningless in such a context, the only context that is True.  They are attempts to quantify the infinite and codify the Truth.  They are training wheels that must be discarded if we want to pop a wheely, or fly down a hill and skid into an exhilarating, skidding, twisting, stone-spraying halt on a bed of gravel.

I think at one time they served me.  But I think to move into the space from which Jesus beckons us in A Course of Love, they must be let go.

In A Course of Love, Jesus says, “You were birthed in unison with God’s idea of you.  This does not need to be understood, but only accepted to the extent you can accept it.  This is necessary because of your reliance on a God who is ‘other’ than you for the provision of your answers.  Acceptance of your birth in unison with God’s idea of you is acceptance of your self as co-creator of the pattern of the universe, acceptance of the idea or the story that is you.  Can you not see that you were birthed into a place within the pattern of God’s creation?  Or that you not only can know but have always known of this place?  This is not a place of physical form but a place of holiness, an integral place in the pattern that is oneness with God.”  (ACOL, 26.23-24)

Sometimes when we find ourselves in these prickly places- places we don’t know how to resolve or solve, places that seem beyond us- I think it is helpful to recognize we are being ushered into an encounter in which we can discover the ultimate futility of the very metrics by which we’ve once defined ourselves.  Love has no metric, no rubric, no quantity, no dimension, no limit, no right answer to offer us.  Ideals would package Love up, reduce it to something we can put in our backpack and carry around- close by, but still just outside ourselves.

Love offers us but one thing- itself.  Wholly and without limit or reason.  Beyond ideals lies the greatest gift that could ever have been given, the gift of who we are.


  1. WONDERFUL those stones in the blender of emptiness!

    It was a power moment for me when I stopped asking what would Jesus do and started asking how would Jesus do what he was doing?! It was a question as a key to opening a doorway onto a new and magic world to the importance of the way of being while in the process of doing… and that what is done most of the time is not really all that important as it just is an anchor in motion in time! 🙂

    Predetermined patterns of response provide a safety net of support until we are ready to set ourselves free into just intending to be the presence (or tool) for the “highest” “best” impact for growth and good in the present moment that is in front of us. Just to be the love that we are in motion in the world.

    I was shocked the first time I witnessed the feedback loop when I allowed this to happen. I said something to a coworker that the set pattern of M would have labeled as “unkind”. In the moment it felt right to say it though, so out it came (I honestly can’t remember what it was, but it was something that could have been felt as a bit prickly or snarky said to a pilot I was flying with). Later on the several day trip we were working together, this coworker came back to me and thanked me for saying whatever it was in a way that shocked him awake to a real awareness of whatever the observation was that I had made. We ended up having a really lovely and deep conversation about our trajectories of growth and how we help each other with them when that is our intent.

    Great reminding post! -x.M


    • Hi M, thanks for the beautiful reply. I really resonate with your statement that “predetermined patterns of response provide a safety net of support…” I have been in the midst of some events that have had a certain amount of pre-planning to them, and while we may agree that pre-planning is the antithesis of “just being” the presence that we are, sometimes these situations come along. I don’t know what to say about them. I don’t want to betray any confidences by going into details, so I will craft an analogy that for me carries a comparable emotional feel, but isn’t quite identical.

      Imagine that you had a favorite teacher in high school or college, and you grew close to this person studying a particular trade or craft, (as a prized student), but that in the end you decided that after learning what this craft really involved, it wasn’t for you. Yet it was your mentor’s life and passion, and you were perhaps not only their prized, but their only student. You represent the future of this practice in their eyes. The last of a dying breed. You represented to your mentor the opportunity to live on through you, the opportunity to pass on what she has learned and views as valuable, as her gift to the future. And now, you realize, this isn’t for you. And yet… you love this person. But their mindset is very clear- this will be perceived as a betrayal… You know this in your bones… How has it come to this?

      As you approach this moment, you can imagine the difficulty. What would Jesus do indeed? Probably wouldn’t have been confused about who to be in the first place, right!? Maybe he could have been happy with the original plan, and wouldn’t have felt a need to change courses in order to fulfill something he felt living inside of himself. Who knows… but, he probably wouldn’t be feeling torn in two like this…

      It would be unavoidable (in my situation it was- imagine now you were junior faculty and there was paperwork to do on your way out as well- a dean to speak with, student housing to move out from) not to pre-plan this conversation, perhaps to rehearse it in your mind, even to “steel” yourself to being true to that little voice you are hearing inside, which seems as though it will lead to your mentor’s losing a dream. How to just be in such moments… These feel like moments that may not show up at all for Jesus, and yet I think they did… I just remembered the story of the Agony in the Garden, which is not the same situation, perhaps, but still… to be tormented by inner conflict. Do I really have to do this to be my Self? Is there not another way? Why couldn’t peace take another shape, if the shape doesn’t matter?

      Anyway… thanks for a great story, and for sharing a question. Michael


      • Have really enjoyed the observations shared here:

        #1 regret of the dying: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

        There comes these moments for me (more and more sustained the less I focus on being M and rather just on being) when the boundaries between the will and separation I would experience between myself and a master mentor or teacher begin to dissolve… it could be described as the “I and My Father speak with the same voice and are one” moments. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I realize there is a will to do that is mine, there is a will that is “ours” (maybe said as collective human consciousness) and there is a will that is just about observing creation (God’s will -“we” are a part of this will, but currently in and out of a separated state mapping and exploring this creation -our creation).

        In my experience, any teacher/mentor that has been worth their salt in my life has provided the opportunity for me to out grow them… they have supported the development of my own discernment and have encouraged me to find and to trust my own voice. I was not viewed as an extension of them, rather as another place to contain their wisdom to be used as my own springboard somewhere deeper, or new. Interactions that do not support this in my experience are usually from ego. Ego is not bad, and it can teach. However when unchecked can be tempted to be limited and limiting.

        Jesus did a pretty big desert/wilderness retreat where temptation was the focus. I think it was about moving past the pull of duality… this is the peace I believe is referred to when He says my peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, but not as the world gives it. This earth is all about polarity. What happens to conflict and choice and even the concept of sin and temptation when one is not engaged with changing or judging what just is?!

        RUMI begins to speak to this for me… Alan Watts also gives a wonderful talk about this which was taken down of youtube and I have yet to find it again. (I am reminding myself to search for it again and when found, I will send you a link).

        I have not made the time yet to dive deeply into your writing enough to find your comfort zone outside of the stunning wisdom found in Christianity. I do not intent to offend if home is most comfortable for you there. I have had the experience of finding such amazing nuggets of the same truth, just using different textures in words in many spiritual traditions on this planet. However, it was the Christian cannon which helped form the structure of my heart and for this I am eternally grateful.

        You engage with your comments and give many gifts in your wake. I adore having the opportunity to attempt to communicate with words where I call home inside myself. Thank you for this Michael.



        • Hi M,

          It’s funny. I wrote that same quote from Rumi (from your link) in a draft of my post at some point, and then in re-reading and re-shaping I removed it. But the concept was lurking. Glad you insisted on its arrival!

          Part of what I was trying to explore in my post was the challenge we face whenever we encounter those “ethical” questions. There’s no right or wrong, but we know that we face a choice that will likely result in suffering on the part of another, even if our choice is rooted in something healthy, and their suffering is ultimately a choice or an insistence to perceive the moment in a particular way- like when we set a much needed boundary, or perhaps fail to meet expectations because someone else’s expectations for us don’t align with our own desires for ourselves. (What if we wish to make this person happy? And also wish to follow our own heart? This can be a real quandary…) These moments, where every choice seems to involve a loss, they force us to choose who we truly are. There’s no right or wrong- but there sure looks like there will be disappointment and suffering.

          At the end of the day, I think moments like this take me far beyond the “what would Jesus do” question, and more to what you described as “how did he do it?”, or for me “what must he have known that I don’t, that enabled him to navigate the world?” These moments that seem to be lose-lose have to be re-conceived or re-perceived in the Light of Truth. Then, they are no longer lose-lose. They are gone or transformed altogether. One thing I probably didn’t elaborate on very well in the post was the notion that living in this fuller viewpoint, when interacting with others we care about who do not see with it, can be a challenge.

          Anyway, enough on that one!

          It takes a little while to learn about someone through their blogging, but please do not fear offending me. I have greatly enjoyed this exchange. It has helped me to understand my own post even better. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and embraced. I have participated in Native American classes and ceremony, attended Buddhist lectures, read the words off of translations of Rumi and Hafiz, and eventually settled on A Course in Miracles and subsequently A Course of Love as my primary daily all-purpose spiritual vitamins because they resonated deeply with me, and did not require that anything else be left behind.



        • Hi Maren,

          Thanks for the wonderful response(s) today. It was close to an eleven hour work day today, so it may take a day or two for me to catch up with you. The poems and quotes were really wonderful. I think acceptance is such a powerful practice. While it seems (at times) to contradict the notion that we are creators of our experiences, it inevitably leads to peace when practiced fully and without constraint, and peace seems like the doorway to all that we desire, so acceptance must be key. Resistance, clearly, exacerbates difficulty.

          This same paradox comes up for me in the quote from Shantaram- the notion that we can choose to forgive instead of suffering in any moment, and yet the mind says, I’d rather not be chained to the wall in the first place. What process results in our being chained to the wall in the first place? I think that thought is where the suffering begins. It begins as the seed of the perceptions, thoughts, and actions which ultimately result in our being chained to the wall. That is what I am thinking. I think Jesus is suggesting in A Course of Love and A Course in Miracles, that there is a place, or way of being, available to us, that isn’t just about being able to soften the difficulty of illusion, but about walking out past illusion altogether.

          That is the Reality we will inherit, when we have accepted it… There it is again… acceptance. Forgiveness. Joy.

          Thanks again for sharing your experiences and thoughts. Much appreciated. Michael


      • “What if we wish to make them happy?”

        It was a big moment for me when I realized that I can NEVER make anyone else happy. All I can do is share the happiness that I am and have found with them. I can create a space for happiness to be present, but the allowing of it to be experienced is always and all ways a personal choice outside of my control. When we create the opportunity for another to make that choice for something other than suffering, it is a gift. What they actually do with it, in my opinion, is not our business!

        Those who over time continuously choose to repeatedly suffer, I have found gradually fall away from the flow of my life. This is not about judging or condemning those who have yet to find the courage to take responsibility for their emotional landscape, but rather allowing them the freedom to continue their desire for drama only no longer automatically providing a place for them to do it at my front door. I hug and love and speak my truth about how I am experiencing what is occurring not as suffering and invite them to join me. When this has been a “family” member, I have discovered that usually over time, I let them choose to have contact or not with me. I make the invitation and let them decide if they want to engage… and as they find I will not join in what often is a request for a pity party, more and more I find I am not taken up on the invitation in the first place to have a challenge then to deal with. 🙂 This then turns into something that I call “loving from a distance”. I will engage, but only from love. If not from love in interaction, the relationship is shared from a distance and I am only a witness not a player in their chosen drama.

        I myself am glad and find it a reason for quiet celebration when there is enough suffering finally present in the lives of people I love to begin to wake them up to the truth of their complete responsibility for their experiencing of it. To finally become awake or aware enough or at times often finally miserable enough to question their role in the creation of their own feelings is a reason to be happy! When one can look at suffering as a friend, magic magic magic happens.

        Learn the alchemy true human beings
        know: the moment you accept what

        troubles you’ve been given, the door
        will open. Welcome difficulty

        as a familiar comrade. Joke with
        torment brought by the Friend.

        Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
        and jackets that serve to cover,

        then are taken off. That undressing,
        and the naked body underneath, is

        the sweetness that comes after grief.


        There is often not a lot we can do about the circumstances that can bring the potential for suffering (they are events and they happened and at this level of understanding they often happened ‘outside’ our control of them occurring), but ONE HUNDRED % of the time we have complete choice on how we want to assign meaning to the happening with our thoughts about what has happened. This meaning is a choice that leads to the creation of feelings about whatever event it is that happened.

        Reading Victor Frankel in “Mans Search for Meaning” many years ago was the first real, clear wake up call for me about this dynamic as he began write about choosing not to suffer while still being in a concentration camp.

        Another beautiful example of this was found recently in the opening paragraph of the book “Shantaram”:

        “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that hating and forgiving can become the story of your life.”

        -Shantaram, A Novel by Gregory David Roberts-

        You left wonderful thoughts to contemplate on in your reply and I enjoyed having the chance to attempt to share more about a way of being in the world that I find I am not often required to put into words.

        Joys on the journey, -x.M


      • The reply thread order is getting a bit jumbled, but the heart and spirit of the word is all that really matters anyway so I hit reply again and will share related to acceptance….

        I was once physically present in the audience at the feet of a master teacher. A student asked how it was that they became enlighten and had attained a continuous and rolling ability to breathe, think, act and react from a place of unwavering peace (to my observations this was the case such as I could see as well). The answer came in a succession of three words I have never forgotten:


        All else flows from this. Allowing what is to be as it just is always brings peace. -xx.M

        PS 11 hr day and the man’s mind is still rocking and rolling. Hope it was a restful sleep. As one who also lives in the land of 15hr work days at times, my hat off to you. 🙂


  2. Wonderful sharing, Michael. I have been learning so much about not wanting anything. I appreciate the mirrors in my life, such as students and children, who are able to show me when I desire to be liked, to be thought of as good, kind, smart or I want the other to BE or do something – I am being shown a metric that can be dropped. I also appreciate how different teachers and paths can lead us to the very same stripping back to real. Under the full moon last night, I had a Koan of the desire to desire nothing in my head – from wherever it came, thank you 🙂 marga


    • Love it! The koan = the desire to desire nothing. It was a really beautiful moon last night, indeed. I am reminded of your poem earlier this week, which I can’t remember the words now, but I do the feeling, and think some experiences this week have brought me to some place of stillness, inside a question, a hollow cave I might step into. Beneath that moon… a hollow ball of Light… Michael


      • I peeked above and read some of the unfoldings in your week; in light of this, I just wanted to embrace the moment with you in the stillness and hollow ball of light you so beautifully sense even in the stirred up waters of transition and human interaction. So wonderful to be able to reveal the actual happenings in close-up human terms (or metaphor) and then also zoom out to the space where the question can be allowed to just exist – like a shadow shape within the cave – for a bit. The Rumi field beyond right and wrong, most certainly it helps to meet there! You bring me back to this place again. Much peace! marga


  3. J.D. Riso says

    The desire to be seen as a Good Person is indeed a prison. One of the toughest of all to break free from. The ego works in devious ways. I’m so pleased that my random wanderings on your blog today brought me here, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Julie. I read this again and feel that somehow the cosmological landscape that existed when I wrote this must have rolled around again or something, as I feel it is a good reminder to what I am feeling recently. It helps to have places of acceptance I think, and your writing and responding, however distant it may seem, has been an invitation to return once again to the solace of the heart.



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