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…
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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.