Nearly fifteen years ago I took a six month class on the life and teachings of Walter Russell. (If you don’t know of Walter, it is worth taking a moment to scan this quick bio.) Walter was an amazing person, (like you and I), who among other things created a home study course entitled A Course in Cosmic Consciousness. The group in which I participated met once a month for an eight hour session to review and discuss this Course, and the monthly lecture-discussions were led by a Zen Buddhist teacher, Yasuhiko Kimura, and then President of the University of Science and Philosophy, (Walter and Lao Russell’s foundation and legacy), Laara Lindo.
It was during one of the first two sessions, while our little group was basking in the awareness of our full potential and describing all of the inspirational thoughts and possibilities that had come into our lives in the preceding weeks, that Yasuhiko sprung the question on us. “Wonderful. But! Are you prepared to give up your suffering?”
Our enthusiasm momentarily outpaced our comprehension. “Yes!” “Of course!” “What the hell’s he talking about!?” “Just tell us how!” “Woo-hoo!”
Silence proved more than sufficient to quickly soak up these outbursts and tuck them away in neverwhere where they belonged, and then Yasuhiko said, “Really…?”
The original question is the type that, despite complying with all the known rules of grammar and being offered with precise articulation, does not compute. Who wouldn’t give up their suffering? None of us desire to suffer, surely. And so, this must not be a choice that is ours to make, or we would have made it already, right? I was acutely aware, however, that I was suffering in some way even then, however hazily it seemed in that particular moment, that I had suffered in the past, and that truth be told I anticipated the onset of more obvious suffering once again… I recognized this, because I had driven five hours, most of them prior to the sun’s arrival in my part of the world, to this class in the hopes of staving off the worst of it… and that damn question… it was bearing down upon all of us like a force of nature. It was saying- you could end this… Right now…
* * * * *
In A Course of Love Jesus says, “While I can tell you suffering is illusion, you cannot still your fear of it nor tear your eyes away from it or remove from it the feelings of your heart. While I came to reveal the choice of love to you, the choice that each of you must make to end such suffering, the illusion of suffering has continued and in its continuation made the choice of love seem all but impossible. If not for the suffering that you see all around you, the choice for love would have been made. If the choice for love had been made, the suffering you see around you would be no more.” (Treatise on the Art of Thought, Chapter 5, 5.3)
I think this is one of the many ways Jesus describes the one choice we truly face- the decision to accept unity, which is the decision to choose love, which is the decision to give up suffering, which is the decision to cease our attempts at being special, which is the decision to relinquish the notion that we have somehow made ourselves other than we are, which is the decision to accept who we are, which is the decision to completely reinvent our experience of the world.
We want to make this decision, to step across the threshold, but we get that lump in our throat, that flutter in our chest, when it comes right down to it. We say the words in our mind, but we know, in our hearts, we haven’t committed wholly to this choice. This missing certainty is, I think, the wholeheartedness of which Jesus speaks- to give oneself wholly to the reality of love.
In the absence of making the choice of love, we use notions of right and wrong to keep us convinced we are on the right track. In the absence of the choice of love, we remain convinced that we are missing something, and are tempted time and time again by strategies and experiences that promise to fill the void. In the absence of a wholehearted choice for love, we remain servants to our false sense of littleness.
How many times have I read another’s story of triumph, and wondered when my turn would come? How many times have I witnessed success, and told myself my shortcomings are my own fault for not bearing down hard enough? How many times have I sabotaged myself before I even started? How many times have I witnessed a person suffering and noted it is their choice, their own fault? How many times have I judged another because it reinforced my own insistence that my own stance on the issue, my own logic or interpretation, my choice, was better?
This question has been with me of late: how many times have I let myself believe that what I “accomplish” in this world, what I “make of myself”, just doesn’t matter? Not often…
The point is that we matter, but our resume’s do not. We matter as who we already are, as who we were in the very moment of our creation, and our worldly achievements can never add one iota to the true Self. What the world is missing, so long as we remain accepting of suffering, is our expressing who we are- our being free to give ourselves wholly to one another and the world rather than being hamstrung by seeking to get something from one another and the world. The irony is that once the choice of love is made, we become those limitless expressions of the truth that we are- beyond suffering, beyond temptation, and beyond right and wrong. This choice then, to accept love despite all illusions to the contrary, is salvation.
And the end of suffering forever.
Bravo! I was playing catch up in the blogging world after having been away working and responded to our last thread of comments last night before catching up with the rest of the posts waiting for me in my reader. You much more eloquently have outlined here what I was attempting to say in response to you post about ideals. EXCELLENT and POWERFUL truth to touch up on and share with the world here.
Another way that I try to say this is that when I think I am Maren, I have the potential to suffer. When I think I am the love of creation and energy of being alive in motion in the world currently called Maren, I still can feel the challenge and sometimes even still pain of what is happening on this planet, but it is never experienced as suffering… it is closer to what I would call growing pains which are always a happy thing.
Wonderful, deep reminding wisdom afoot in your corner of the adventure Michael! -x.M
Yes, it is amazing the extent to which our outlook is colored by where we place our sense of identity. One moment my life feels small and shrunken, and my mind is feverishly trying to figure out how to make things work given its, and the body’s, limited resources. This is when the planning really gets going, or if it’s really a bad day, the realization that things truly are beyond my grasp will pop by for a visit and offer its debilitating medicine. That’s the old- what’s the point…?
But when we recognize our unity with the whole of creation, and recognize our local selves as expressions of a wholeness of which we are truly a part, anything seems possible. We couldn’t find a reason to be upset, or to suffer, if we tried! But nothing on the outside has changed! It is a radical shift in view, a flash of insight, a healed perception…
Only one of these can be true, and our hearts know which one it is.
Thanks for reading and for writing. Michael
‘debilitating medicine” –I love that! what’s the point? when there is the realization that there is no point, man I need to buckle my seat belt because at that level of freedom, I am always in for the best and most magic wild ride being lived as the life called M!!!
Creation just creating… and isn’t that the most beautiful and bust open at the seams of the overflowing heart joyful being?!-x.M
I haven’t read A Course Of Love, but I have been feeling more and more acutely that love is bigger than we realize. Can love alone end suffering? I can see how it can end a lot of suffering. If we love ourselves, then the little voice in our heads (our ego) will cease to put us down, we will forgive ourselves and hold nothing against ourselves; we will believe in ourselves etc. If we love others, we will have more loving people in our lives; we will receive more love etc. Can love end all suffering? I don’t know, but it certainly looks like it would end quite a bit of our suffering! Great thought provoking post!
Thanks for your reply, which I greatly appreciate. I think the thing about suffering and love is that they don’t co-exist. Not really. They’re not like ends of a spectrum that slowly dissolve one into the other, and we can choose where along the way we wish to land, choosing a little of one and a little of the other. Suffering is illusion. Love is real. I think this is the precipice to which we are ultimately taken as we grow spiritually.
We are accustomed to dwelling in a world where, through our choices, we maximize some things, and minimize others. And naturally, we seek to minimize suffering, and perhaps to maximize love. But the radical nature of Jesus’ message in A Course of Love is that in the choice to give ourselves wholly to the love that we are, suffering will vanish altogether. It will be gone.
Reflecting on this almost engenders a “lottery ticket” feeling for me- meaning its the type of feeling that carries the recognition that you’re face to face with a choice, a moment, after which everything will change (in ways that surpass understanding). I think we want to believe in this type of power. I think we want to believe things could be this great! But our suffering supplies the evidence to the contrary. We believe the meaning suffering seems to supply to our world, and this binds us to a shrunken charade of ourselves and of life.
So, I guess what I’m saying- I agree love is bigger than we realize!
I understand what you mean about suffering. In one sense it is an illusion. It is the part of us that is holding on to that which our psyche creates and we don’t want to let go and we are afraid of making wrong choices that could change our life so we suffer. However, love can also bring us to suffering. If my husband or any of my children were hurting, I would suffer. When Jesus was told that Lazarus was dead, He wept. Thinking…..perhaps there are two sides to suffering. One in darkness and one in light. I am only trying to process. What do you think?
I am joining you in the processing of this one. This issue, I think, is one of the most challenging to wrestle with. I have an intellectual stance on the issue, but I can’t say as I have complete agreement at all levels of my being quite yet. Here is a quote from A Course of Love where Jesus speaks about what I think you are getting at:
“What pain has your heart endured that it has failed to treasure for its source? It’s source is love, and what greater proof need you of love’s strength? Such pain as your heart endured would surely be a knife to cut through tissue, a blow that to the brain would stop all functioning, an attack on the cells far greater than any cancer. The pain of love, so treasured that it cannot be let go, can and does attack the tissue, brain and cells. And then you call it illness and allow the body to let you down, still and always holding love unto yourself.
“Must pain accompany love and loss? Is this the price you pay, you ask, for opening up your heart? And yet, should you be asked if you would have other than the love you would not answer yes. What else is worth such cost, such suffering, so many tears? What else would you not let go when pain comes near, as a hand would drop a burning ember? What other pain would you hold closely, a grief not to be given up? What other pain would you be so unwilling to sacrifice?
“Think not that these are senseless questions, made to bring love and pain together and there to leave you unaided and unhelped, for pain and love kept together in this way makes no sense, and yet makes the greatest sense of all. These questions merely prove love’s value. What else do you value more?”
Speaking of the apparent proximity of love and pain, Jesus says, “No one here believes they can have one without the other and so they live in fear of love, all the while desiring it above all else.”
We truly are conflicted beings- and conflict is at the root of our suffering. We’re so conflicted, and we don’t even realize it. Our conflicts make a certain sense to us- like the proximity of love to suffering so intense the brain and cells would long ago have checked out, but which the deepest ocean of our heart will endure. Love and pain are dance partners here, and so it seems almost ‘wrong’ to attempt to tease love away from suffering. It sounds inhuman to simply go about stating that suffering is an illusion, when it is the one ‘illusion’ from which we are all running each day. And surely there is some good, clean suffering out there that burns us gloriously…? A mother would die for her child, without a second thought, and we would call it love. But I think, as I may have said on another comment reply, that Jesus is taking us (and we are asking to be taken) all the way back to the roots of the plant that flowers into a world where a mother is faced with such a choice.
Later, Jesus adds, “Love alone has the power to turn this dream of death into a waking awareness of life eternal.”
We think in our conflicted minds that being loving means to suffer with those we love. How could we be happy and whole while those we love suffer? If I read between the lines, however, I think Jesus is saying (not necessarily in what I just quoted, but throughout Course in Miracles and Course of Love and Dialogue on Awakening and in other places) that when we fully accept the reality of who we are, which is unity with all that is, it will be quite impossible to view an ‘other’ who is suffering. It won’t be in the picture. Suffering is like the ultimate evidence of the perception of separation. We suffer in solitude. Our suffering isolates us. And then there are ‘others’ who suffer and we try to avoid them so as to insulate ourselves from their suffering. The ones we ‘love’ are those we choose to ‘suffer’ alongside. But these choices are simply the apparent choices that separation affords us- to suffer with these ones and not with those ones. I think to truly join in unity, both these choices perhaps disappear. I think Jesus is that joining, and he has joined with us, and pulled us into this great joining, and we are coming around to accepting it…
I’m fishing a bit with words here, speaking stream of consciousness, but this conversation is really helpful. I hope it is for you also. Thank you so much for engaging.
Your last posts have been so powerful – for days they were open and waiting on my tabs, while I worked through grading student essays. I always need breaks to do this task, and finally I was able to break tonight and relish in the wisdom to be found here on your pages. So worth the wait. So much fun to read the words that reflect so much of how my path is unfolding – yet through a lens seemingly not my own.
Working through the hamstring injuries 🙂 by getting over seeking to “get” something from others – Your wording here is so great. I have been becoming aware of how I have shifted to parenting without an Agenda, much of the time – while at the same time seeing the need to guide and lead. This paradox provides a tricky dance for learning balance – that I myself have created to do right now. off here on My own tangent – but as your words ping for me, I see the reflection in your wisdom in my now expression.
(Walter Russell Group – way cool!)
I’m very glad we struck a chord. Unleashing some beat frequencies into the Great Silence we can all build on…
Paradoxes are always intriguing. I think they’re a confirmation that we’re engaging the frontier. So, like… tomorrow my goal is to do just one thing without an agenda… It sounds really delicious!
Hi Michael, Thanks again for your thoughtful response. I am wondering if perhaps the dilemma lies in how we define suffering. When we ‘suffer’ with a loved one who is suffering it is suffering in empathy. Empathy surely is a good thing to have with someone. Empathy becomes compounded to feel like suffering when the person we are empathising with is someone we love hugely.
I think how we define suffering is important. I’m definitely not saying a person “shouldn’t” have their own feelings and experiences surrounding situations wherein a loved one is suffering. But I am saying that reinforcing a perception that suffering is real, by joining with the view of another who ‘suffers’ from this condition, will not of itself lead to healing or release for either one. One question that is very helpful for me to consider as I explore this issue is this: does God, or Love, empathize with our suffering? If so, why does God, or Love, allow it?
So, one definition that I think is critical I think is how we define ‘real’. And I think examples are helpful. A loved one may have a disease, may even be facing death as a very real potential outcome. They are suffering because they are afraid of death, afraid of prolonged periods of pain, afraid of helplessness, afraid to leave their loved ones behind, afraid to leave a task unfinished, and/or angry at what has intruded upon their life, angry at what they have lost, angry at what has been taken away, etc. We can empathize with all of this- they are common human reactions to the situation.
But quickly we can, through our empathy, reinforce such views. We can quickly find ourselves agreeing (even if we never verbalize it) there is a terrible situation afoot, a travesty, an inexplicable example of how our world has gone wrong. At a fundamental level, this is like lending our vote to a bad idea. We can come to suffer with them and alongside them, by joining them “where they live”. The original perceptions, and the empathy that shares them, are largely rooted in the notion that the body and the personality are ‘real’, and the identity we share in Love and in Christ which transcends all loss and limitation, is but a nice idea, and powerless to boot.
In A Course of Love, Jesus says, “Why think you it is loving to believe in suffering? Do you not begin to see that in doing so you but reinforce it?”
To become a light unto darkness, I think Jesus is asking us to bring the truth to such situations, rather than abandoning truth to share a false mindset that will only expand or enable suffering. What is this truth? That we are joined forever in a shared reality of peace and love, that we share an identity in truth, and that worldly evidence or expressions to the contrary, acted out through the body, can never change that truth. I think there is an empathy that heals, and that is to empathize with the changeless beauty, truth, and love that are the reality of our loved ones (and everyone)- despite any and all evidence the world offers to the contrary.
I’m not saying that we need to verbalize this, (as I have perhaps poorly done here), or seek to forcefully change another’s mind. I think Jesus is calling us to simply observe the truth in others, to maintain the empathy that heals, in all circumstances, and to offer a face of compassion to any and all whose minds are perhaps unwilling or unprepared to accept such an aboutface at a given moment. We don’t have to fix the world, change another’s mind, convince anyone of anything, or insist anyone agree with us… It is a choice we make within our own minds with respect to what we choose to identify as real. One choice reinforces a view that suffering is real. One choice reinforces a view that love is real.
This note may seem a lot like an exploration in convincing. If so, once again, please imagine you are reading the words of one writing to himself, one who is here wrestling with these ideas, trying to understand them. Your notes and questions have been really helpful, and whether you feel we ‘agree’ or not is moot. I observe two beautiful people reaching across an electronic ocean to express their thoughts and feelings, and in this honest sharing, there is richness for both… That is my hope!
Hi Michael, I totally understand about ‘writing to himself’. Know that I’m the same! I understand where you are coming from about what is real. Your thoughts on this has led my mind to some other thoughts…one is that the bible tells us that while Jesus was on earth, he suffered. He felt pain, he was tempted, he felt sadness. He of course was always able to take the higher ground because of who he is. The other thought I had is that the part of us which you hint as not being real…our personality or mind or ego…is something which we ourselves partly create. We create how we want to be and we also create by allowing ourselves to be affected by things…is our creation not real? In fact, the bible also says that our mind (reads the soul as opposed to the spirit) is created by God when God breathes into us (the spirit). We have it for a reason…perhaps to experience life and to teach us. We need to learn to take the higher ground of course. And yes, on the other hand what we are on the outside can be anything we create so in a sense…IS that real? Spirituality is all three becoming one….mind, body and spirit (or body, soul and spirit in the bible). The question is how do we get it to all work together?
I am glad one thought is inspiring another. I started this blog because I had an excitement and a joyous feeling inside I wanted to somehow share, and that feeling was based on what I had learned from sources like A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love, which had helped me a lot with respect to achieving and maintaining states of peace and well-being. When you feel that, it’s impossible not to want to share it I think! But, also, I’m not interested in convincing anyone of anything. More like sharing. Like, hey, I think I found something here. Is it helpful to you also?
So along those lines, one of the most simple and powerful excerpts from A Course in Miracles is the short stanza in the preface that goes like this: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Therein lies the peace of God.”
Because the ego will ultimately be forgotten, and we will recover our true identity in Christ, the ego is not ‘real’ in the way the term ‘real’ is used in these courses. The term ‘real’ as used in these courses (and in other sources of wisdom) has a specific meaning within a specific thought system. Outside of that, the definitions can become cumbersome to work with.
The beautiful transformation A Course of Love is nudging us towards is the complete acceptance of Love flowing from within and through our personality, and into the world. The personality is transformed from illusion, to a representation of the truth. As Jesus achieved. But that which changes in time is not Truth itself. It is (or ideally can be) a “representation” of the truth, an “expression” of Truth, a reminder or a pointer towards the truth. Our ultimate safety stems from the fact that our connection to God is formless. Love is formless. Truth is formless. We… are formless. Expressing love and truth through form.
The forms are real in the sense that they are expressions capable of communicating, but they are unreal in the sense that they are not capable of ever changing God, or Love, or Truth, or who we are… When we identify with the changing, outer presentation that our form offers the world, it does seem as though we can create who we are, and change who we are, and perhaps, even, lose who we are… When we identify with the truth that lives within us, we are changeless… It is all about where we choose to build our house, as I think it says in the Bible- on sand (unreality, ego, temporary and changing expressions) or on rock (reality, timeless and formless, truth, and love).
This is a way of seeing that really resonates with me, and which I enjoy sharing and discussing. But again… please take what you like… and follow your own heart… which is love itself…
Loving this dialogue-
Reminds me of E. Tolle, and his conceptual “pain-body”, that makes us “interesting” … so we wouldn’t part from it since it gives us identity.
Bert, I agree. I think what Eckhart teaches about the pain body is similar in many ways to what Jesus says in A Course of Love. There are so many words plied around the truth- we can use the alternate words as points of division, or as means to recognize they’re all pointing to a common reality. I’m interested in the latter because I think that truth is truth. What lies beyond words is the same for all of us. And yet, it’s interesting how we resonate with different representations, different vocabularies, or different presentations. To our unity and sameness as beings at home in Love! To our saneness (not a word, I know) and uniqueness as particular expressions of Love! Michael
Rich thoughts. I appreciate the time you put into this.
If you can manage a look…..my own thoughts on faith and suffering:
Hope it blesses you.
A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing the link. I think faith in the unknown is an awesome and essential ingredient in our various processes of being cracked open from within, and accepting that a reality of Love is… well… reality!
Lovely follow-up comment, Michael. Thx for your time. Blessings.
Slowly, I am catching up with the conversation here.
“What the world is missing, so long as we remain accepting of suffering, is our expressing who we are- our being free to give ourselves wholly to one another and the world rather than being hamstrung by seeking to get something from one another and the world.”
The words are, perhaps finding me!
Suffering is absence. When we are not able, or willing to be in a situation that is best experienced through our willing participation, which opens us to feel love and compassion for ourselves and another, we are not able to experience an expansion of identity, and so, we suffer.
I think I understand what you are saying- how expansion of identity into a non-local wholeness, something that encompasses more than just an ‘I’ perhaps, can offer a perspective or an experience in which suffering simply doesn’t compute.
I agree with that. When faced with any of the many and various difficulties we face here in this earthen experience, I tend to resort to the Ace Card of knowing there is a life in me greater than any moment or personality. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I would say I do not.
I think that in A Course of Love Jesus is pointing to something similar to what you described above when he asks us to look to “what is” in a way that sees suffering not. From that place of wholeness, there is not only a reduction in the immediate suffering, but a complete transformation of circumstances that is possible.
I think I have not quite fully mastered this yet, have tried to avoid what I have perceived as suffering in the world around me- have seen it in others and tried to steer clear, have tried to do and be the things that would somehow immunize me from it. Not bad things. But still… Seems shallow to say. I think somehow there is a middle ground, a way of walking among lepers wholly at ease, as both one of them and something altogether more, forming the bridge between the two realities, instead of being pulled down. I think that one is still a reality in formation for me. A place I do not see too clearly.
“I think I have not quite fully mastered this yet, have tried to avoid what I have perceived as suffering in the world around me- have seen it in others and tried to steer clear, have tried to do and be the things that would somehow immunize me from it.”
No mastering here either. As I get older though I feel much more okay to be around another’s suffering, and have curiosity enough to stick around and allow a closer proximity to people who are suffering.
Oh so very tricky though. Everyone has their unique circumstance and modes of transportation to walk their own path.
Bridge-building, I agree is a worthwhile task with anyone who crosses our path.
But, knowing and respecting the limits and separation of all self/other relationships, I don’t look for lepers, but when people show up in my life, I try to stay open and attentive to the shared space.
This is one of those places that leaves me extra thankful for the discussion you and others provide. I discover, in writing, I have reached the frontier. I say things and then I look back and question them. I am not as certain as I am other times.
I can find myself, at such times, in that semi-awkward place of being fully prepared to advocate for the existence of a reality I haven’t quite fully inhabited myself…
The leper analogy… I don’t seek them out either, but I just imagine the way the presence of Love, crossing the room, not quite full of the thoughts I sometimes entertain, gives the leper every good reason to never be a leper again. I think that could happen as naturally, say, as a realization, or the spontaneous inspiration to write, not as a result of something under conscious control, as much as a spontaneous, collaborative movement of being… when Love is free to be that infinite term in the equation… when our minds are not quite so over-damped…
Thank you for staying open and attentive here in this shared space. It makes all the difference.
” I think that could happen as naturally, say, as a realization, or the spontaneous inspiration to write, not as a result of something under conscious control, as much as a spontaneous, collaborative movement of being.”
I do believe you describe what happened to me, or not what, but in what way a healing moment happened to me.
Yes, I feel the edges too…and as staying open feels natural these days, you are very welcome Michael.
Sounds like a beautiful experience, Debra. My heart is warmed just hearing about it!