comments 28
Christ / Course Ideas

The process of shifting identity from the false perceptions of the ego to the valid identity we all share in Christ appears, at least for me, to involve passage through states that closely resemble one or more of the following: a flock of large metal plates approaching both the speed of sound and the US Naval Artillery Rail Gun Test Range; a repeating dream in which you hike up the side of a mountain to audition for your dream job, don’t get the part, but meet a lot of astoundingly outgoing people who do; a series of days spent in slow motion wandering the desert in continuously degenerating circumstances without ever quite dying, and a thriller filmed by Alfred Hitchcock based on your life as it would be presented on Wikipedia.

These are transitory states that yield in due course of time– with no small amount of patient allowing of what is– to states of joy, peace and contentment, as well as a heightened awareness of what authenticity means, but while they’re in full bloom it feels a lot like playing chicken with your own destruction.  On the one hand, there’s the thought that these states are transitory and that their accompanying feelings are nothing but the unreliable residue of misperception, but if that’s incorrect, and their voices carry weight, then you’re actually careening on a constant vector of decreasing distance towards an inelastic collision with a poorly lit and imminently solid object.

If you’re crossing a stream by jumping from rock to rock, that moment of being suspended in mid-air probably feels a little awkward to at least some of the cells in the body who may have been ignorant of the game plan.  Likewise, I think our minds can get more than a little disoriented when we give our hearts enough freedom to set the course.  Our hearts know exactly where to go, and that’s what they do.  Our minds have no idea such a place exists, so they think they can’t come along.  Our minds are like dogs wearing the shock collars of our pasts.  In A Course of Love, Jesus suggests that healing this gap between the heart and mind is priority numero uno.

But how to have the experience we don’t know how to have?

The old approach was to put it on layaway– make this life either the last or perhaps one in a series of payments on that particular miracle, and treat death as the moment when the magician yanks away the curtain.  An aspect of A Course of Love I really enjoyed was the notion that we do not need to wait for death to experience unity.  In fact, it wouldn’t entirely be in keeping with the current druthers of Creation to do so.  In other words, experiencing life from the condition of unity rather than the condition of separation is not only an experience that is available to us, it is one that heals and transforms the world.  There is a certain desire rippling through Creation itself to get on with the next chapter of the story.

This is where my heart cheers.  Yes!!!  And my mind says, okay, so… what do we do?  Or on a bad day, arms crossed, prove it.  These transitory states of consolidating every residual ounce of fear and uncertainty into a brewing cesspool of emotion seem to be moments of complete failure, as if the test results are in and the Christ indicator dye came back negative.  But afterwards, when these storms have passed, they always feel as though they were incredibly tame– no more than the arising of the realization I’ve been chewing the same stick of gum for twenty-five hours straight and it’s time to chuck it.  There’s relief in getting that old flavor out of our mouths.

It takes me a while, but it’s becoming more obvious that this acceptance and expression of the true Self in this realm has very little to do with what my mind thinks it is doing, or should be doing, or thought it did, or any of that.  How we spend our time is not unimportant, but neither is it the means of unifying the heart and mind.  I’m sure there has been and will be fruit that arises from this holy union of heart and mind, but using time in an effort to produce fruit in evidence of the accomplishment will only yield a false positive.  And trying to earn what we’ve already been given is an idea on par with running the furnace and the air conditioner at the same time.  We can’t devise a plan, a regimen, to bridge that gap between the heart and the mind.  We have to desire it, and let it swallow us whole.

So my mind and I, we’re becoming increasingly accepting of the fact that we have no idea what we’re doing.  We’re imagining beauty before retiring in the evening, inventing mantras on the ride to work, writing poems when we feel inspired, sharing what grace we can find as best we can, and sinking a little deeper each day into the sensation of living in the absence of lack.  When the evidence of lack arises, we just back away slowly, feeling backwards through time to the last place we were when we knew our heart was fully present with us.  Then pick up from there again.

These impasses with non-existence are not failures, just a little coughing and sputtering as the engine is dusted off and ancient cylinders catch fire.  The condition of separation, which is akin to the condition of “learning”, is like setting the choke.  Once the engine catches, the choke is no longer needed and becomes an unnecessary and excessive restriction.  Learning brings us to the brink of discovering who we are, but cannot carry us across the line.  As the engine rumbles to life, at some point we have to accept… we’ve ignited… and release the choke… and let some power flood through us…


  1. Haven’t got a clue what I am, or why I am the way I am, or why I’m here, or how I got here. The only truth is the not knowing. Pamela Wilson is one of our beloved teachers. She said on her journey she eventually came to the understanding that there are no answers, and accepted that it’s all a complete mystery. In between bouts of the mind’s anguish that it has no answers, there is a simple resting as presence. It’s peaceful here.


    • Yes, presence is a lovely residence, the place where we all meet, and your presence here is a gift as always. (I have gone back to the Ode to Joy on multiple occasions…) Part of my original intent here was to note that these feelings or states arise, and to suggest that they are not only transitory, but revelatory. I don’t think I have ever encountered a batch of difficulty that did not ultimately prove to have been a gentle discovery, or that did not offer a doorway to deepening this field of presence.

      My sense is that while we live and breath and have our being within Mystery, it is not a silent Mystery. It is always speaking, always offering, always giving, and doing so with a richness that is overwhelmingly joyous whenever it is glimpsed. Some of my strongest, purest prayers, which are typically not words or images but flowing feelings of communion, have led into these revelatory darkrooms where pictures of hidden aspects within are developed and made plain.

      Then we look at the images, have the opportunity to really see them, embrace them and let them go on their way. We emerge enriched somehow I think. I guess what I am trying to say is that when I experience them as part of an ongoing dialogue with that Mystery, the connection with the Mystery is somehow strengthened. There is a release of something, some restriction, when I experience the momentary wobbling as an intimate aspect of that ongoing relationship with the Mystery.

      I keep thinking of the phenomena called “shock” which occurs in flowing fluids as they pass through unstable states and spontaneously leap from one state to another, or that feeling in an aircraft when you suddenly emerge from a field of turbulence into smooth air. Something that is no longer needed is shed, and we are enabled to discover and hold an expanded awareness of all that we truly are.



      • Yes yes yes. I too think/believe/experience/understand/know/whatever-word-works that all that takes place, all the so-called mind-stuff/distractions/false stories/negativities/false-positives/ always lead to a deepening into Truth, and a shedding of the no-longer-necessary when looked at and felt head on, and ARE the Mystery doing it’s thing. It’s all the Mystery or Christ or Oneness or Life living itself, even in it’s pretend game of separation and of forgetting. I remember the day when I suddenly realised ‘It’s ALL God’ – for that entire day I forgot to rail against my thoughts, or to identify with my thoughts, and spent the day in joyous bliss. It returns from time to time. The practice of presence helps the falling away of the insistence of the mind-stories as being ‘me’ or real.


  2. Perhaps it’s worth remarking that much of what sustains within us the sense of separation is in fact an issuance of the desire to experience unicity. So what’s happening here, it seems to me Michael, is that two particular factors of mind are at play, both of which thwart the realisation of our innermost desire to actualise that same unicity. These are firstly acts of comparison, and secondly the arising of desires for particular modes of experience. The two operate in tandem in what we assume to be a spiritually profitable source of judgementalism, even though our higher instincts know that all judgements of the mind are in some sense deficient, false and the products of an unreliable witness.

    When we ask ‘But how to have the experience we don’t know how to have?’, we’re implicitly making a comparison as to the qualitative aspects of experience. We’re perhaps thinking we’re thinking too much, and not being silently aware enough. Or we’re identifying with unpleasant mental states, and judging the egoical self for attaching to these feelings. We want experiences of transcendence or immanence, and to wear them as little badges of honour. And behind all this, there’s the idea that if I have certain experiences, or if I can sustain them for longer, then I am in some mysterious sense better than I formerly was. So there’s a tremendous amount of comparison going on here, and which has no impact whatsoever upon the changeless awareness that facilitates these comparisons being played out in mind.

    You say ‘We can’t devise a plan, a regimen, to bridge that gap between the heart and the mind. We have to desire it, and let it swallow us whole.’ Here, you identify something central and quite often pernicious as regards the spiritual search Michael. The seeking, with all of its sophisticated behavioural mechanisms and modes of conduct, is the channel through which desire seeks to find its final expression. And indeed it is true what you suggest, an earnest desire harnessed to good guidance from external sources, whilst being potentially transformative in terms of the conditioned world we inhabit, cannot magically condition into existence what is unconditioned. This is a major aspect of the paradox of spiritual seeking. In the end, the seeker has to disappear, though this can never be conditioned by choice. Giving up seeking volitionally is a false move; it won’t work and is just another movement in the egoical mind. Catch 22.

    Hariod. ❤


    • Lovely reply Hariod. “So there’s a tremendous amount of comparison going on here, and which has no impact whatsoever upon the changeless awareness that facilitates these comparisons being played out in mind.” This sentence gave me a little chuckle at the mind’s antics in it’s quest to get to some place it can never get to.


    • Thank you for sharing your wisdom here, Hariod, which is eminently insightful and helpful. And deeply appreciated. Comparison in all sorts of debilitating forms is absolutely one of the imprisoning modes of conscious assessing from which I am emerging.

      There was definitely a time when I sought particular modes of consciousness or types of experiences in the hopes of some sort of validation, which I think you touched on above. This is indeed a fruitless labor. But I think there is a channel to the heart which, once opened, puts paid to hopes of badges and rewards, and gives rise to a natural and productive desire to sustain it. It becomes clear when it is open, and when it is blocked, and for me the movement into sustaining it has involved embracing a willingness to follow the heart into and through these states.

      So much has been written and said about going within and being present, as if this is a cure for “unwanted states”, and in my experience these feelings of doubt and uncertainty are some of what we encounter in there. As I wrote to Alison a short while ago, I find they are not quite what I may first perceive them to be. The feelings may be quite intense and difficult. They feel like ghosts that have been held in there in some container, and in the process of letting everything flow, those containers get opened one by one and this is what we find.

      It’s a bit like making the decision to clean out the office refrigerator and opening two-year old, abandoned food containers. They reek to high heaven, but then we wash them. Fleeing the scene would not be quite as helpful! There is some sort of desire needed to compel me to open the containers and peek inside, and the heart has a way of guiding us on this tour. When the stench and smoke clear, and we discover what we have done, what has been revealed, I find that channel has been strengthened.

      Part of my motivation for this piece was to be honest about the fact that it’s not always a pleasant and palm-laden path, at least for me. I can get overwhelmed at times by the stench, but I’m beginning to experience it as less about seeking, and more about relationship with all that abides in there. Though I am not sure I was able to capture this all too well in my post.

      Thank you for the dialogue, which as I said, is a treat and an aid.



  3. ~meredith says

    “….afterwards, when these storms have passed, they always feel as though they were incredibly tame– no more than the arising of the realization I’ve been chewing the same stick of gum for twenty-five hours straight and it’s time to chuck it. There’s relief in getting that old flavor out of our mouths.” 😉

    Good read! Meredith


    • Thank you, Meredith. 😉

      I am looking forward to scrolling again through your June Summer Series once again as a collection. It has been a delight to witness piecemeal, but I think it will be great to take it all in as a collective work.



    • But you’re doing it so well… 🙂 Amazing how that works. We claim to not know it, but I think at the end of the day when the dust of all our strange thoughts settle and the air clears, it’s obvious once again we only ever could have been precisely who we are. There’s a way that not knowing seems to work out exquisitely if you give it room to breath.



  4. I was channeling you a bit in class this week when we went over Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” 95% of students are clamoring to get out of the cave,yet human behavior tends to show otherwise, often. Stepping away from proven shadow knowledge sets us off into vast realms of discomforting strange landscapes. Your leaps and rewinds, as well as your ability to put your words on just the thing of the thing, inspire me. I feel my lack of knowledge of engines and cylinders, maintenance and oil, serves me well at times – In that sputtering place, the mind’s lack of knowledge for just what might be the trouble helps me flow sometimes towards bubble gum and fairy dust solutions. In the areas where I think I KNOW, find me brow furrowed neck high in the manual from the manufacturer – —- I am leaping currently, strangely, looking back to see a few mouths agape – I know not, but I am moving across air, one rock to another. I notice a supremely foolish lack of fear has sprouted in me. It seems once I am in the air, and the airplane has flown on, what is there but to move through the air? thank you for pointing to the places where the air and the heat are both on full blast! (I can’t help but view Plato a bit differently,now, after my trek through, Reality and The Dark Places of Wisdom. Those daughters of the sun dropped me off somewhere more Dr. Seussish, right?)


    • I think at the end of the day, bubble gum and fairy dust are just as viable as all the wrenches and hammers and NAPA Know How. It is the heart, mind and willingness of the practitioner that bend space and time to supply the mid-air stepping stones. Such a beautiful process to both witness and embody. Leap, leap away! And I would say you are correct: those Daughters of the Sun definitely don’t make too many stops in Kansas…



  5. Dear Michael,

    I am slow in reading and in response. Your writing is very rich and full of useful imagery, with a variety of angles of perspective offered of a changing sense of self. You pose wonderful questions about this questing and I think you are aware of all the pitfalls of this embodied life with it’s constraints, desires, mysteries, hints, identity traps, while also sensing its aim. Please correct me on any of these conjectures if I am misunderstanding…

    Hariod makes an important point and one that I am intensely aware of within my own desires. We can’t both be in a state of contentment and be striving for it at the same time. The very psychological state of desiring contentment easily keeps us discontent, yes? Maybe though a sense of unity or wholeness does not lead to a definitive state called contentment, but a willingness to incorporate the full spectrum of this human experience with heart and soul, for better or worse.

    I think of reaching a point of desiring any unknown state as standing at the edge of the universe, where seeking ends and living begins. We are the lives we live. It helps me to differentiate between quantifying and qualifying. Quantifying, although necessary, keeps us counting, and accounting, always asking ourselves, is this it? …as if “it” does not require definition. Life is what we see, feel and think moment to moment plus all we don’t see, feel and think.

    Life is a wave as much as a particle. When we particulate our awareness down to fractured moments, extracted out of the bigger picture of our lives, it’s tempting to base conclusions of what life is, how we should be, who we are, or who others are. Although I know that these particulating moments belong to us, so do the moments in which we see them as a thread of the whole cloth. To see both the particulating self in any given moment and to recognize that self as a part of the whole is to practice a double vision.

    In this sense, I accept what comes and goes, the pain of a loss, the unexpected kindness. My practice then, has become to more specifically aim my attention at opening up, to invite the necessary revisioning of all of my conclusions, and to habituate this practice, rather than building walls with my inattentiveness. Love is primarily an engagement with self that extends to others and to the things of the world; to care about and appreciate the mystery of being alive, and to wonder enough about others to seek them out, to know them.

    I cannot though, sustain a walk through life in which I am aiming at some unknown state. But a sense of unity or wholeness is important to me. I know the world is whole and unified in a way that I don’t always see or feel. I could be more loving and peaceful too. But acceptance of the present moment, with all my weaknesses, my failures, and the knowledge that every word, every step is a choice, styling our dance with the universe, reminding me that I am a particulate of that whole. It’s how we are alive, and how we die, in the moment and at the end of this embodied life that is primarily relationship. We are the unity even when we don’t see, feel or grasp it.

    The word unity and the word wholeness are troubling to me though. I think I know what I mean and others mean when they use them, but by their very nature of being BIG words, BIG ideas, I will admit to distrusting their use. I wonder, when I use them or hear others use them, what is meant by them? Although I may use them sparingly in writing, I contemplate their meaning often. So, I wonder, what you mean by them? What does Unity look like? What does wholeness feel like?


    • ‘The word unity and the word wholeness are troubling to me though. . . when I use them or hear others use them, what is meant by them?’

      If you don’t object to my rudeness at jumping in here Debra, and you too Michael, I would beg to suggest that a certain unicity of awareness becomes apparent in those moments when the running sensory stream of selfhood absents, and with it too the assumed centrality of awareness. So it’s no longer a case of ‘me here looking at that tree over there’; it’s more a case of ‘awareness is with the tree and my being’. It’s only ‘my being’ in the sense that it is self-contained within physical limits, though it does not contain (the idea of) any internally instantiated self. So there’s no experiencer thinking that awareness is channelling between the tree and itself (the experiencer) – the formerly imagined self or imagined internal homunculus that apprehends awareness.

      The awareness therefore has no locus, no point of centrality around, or at which, it gathers. Because of this, there is a seamless and un-weighted quality to it that, if we wished to, we might fairly describe as a unicity in so much as all phenomena are intrinsic to it, and it, to all phenomena. It’s as if the phenomena of the world and awareness both exist and are identical. [That last sentence needs some digesting, I know!] Of course, everyone’s experience of this may quite fairly be described very differently; though it can be interesting to hear how others’ put into words this paradoxical state of affairs; and so I hope you can both forgive me for chiming in here rather rudely with my own brief take on this notion of a unicity.

      Hariod. ❤


    • Hi Debra,

      There were so many aspects to your note here I too am slow to respond as I let it sink in and reveal its layered wisdom. I have thought further today about your first point regarding the manner in which seeking for contentment and contentment itself cannot coexist. And I absolutely agree with this point. The one precludes the other. It left me thinking, however, that desire is a word we have to be very careful in using. Desire in the sense of forming an attachment or wishing for something we don’t have is the type of desire I would say leads to suffering. There is another type of desire, which I will struggle to put into words, which I’ll describe as the energy of the movement of the purest aspects of being. It may be the desire to give of oneself to another in holy relationship, the desire to offer oneself to this world, the desire to end suffering, the desire that lives in Creation itself.

      While all desire may cease to arise as unity consciousness is fully embodied, I think it is a necessary ingredient in our navigation of the processes associated with sustaining the shift in our perceiving from separation to unity. Here is a brief quote from A Course of Love that I found, “Little can be had without desire. Desire, unlike want, asks for a response rather than a provision. Desire is a longing for, a stretching out for.” Then, speaking about this transition from separation to unity consciousness, “You stand now at the threshold. The stimulus has been provided, the journey taken. You are present. Now is the time for your response. That response is wholehearted desire, which is the power that A Course of Love came to return to you.”

      So, I think I would rephrase the sentiments of your first paragraph ever so slightly to say that the sensation of lacking something– of being without– cannot coexist with the sensation of being fulfilled. It is this persistent sensation of lack that leads to well-intentioned but perhaps ill-advised efforts to fill the perceived lack, whether with worldly success, love in particular forms we have decided will do the trick, or particular spiritual or “better” states.

      The root of the experience of lack is experiencing life through the condition, or perception, of separation. From that particular viewpoint, there is quite simply no way to rearrange the information that is available in order to yield the experience of unity. Separation and unity cannot coexist as modes of experiencing, and so this is where we are faced with seeking what can only be found when one mode gives way to the other. This is outside of the agency of a separated mind to accomplish, and so here is the Catch 22. The “self” which is the presence of mind in the separated mode of experience cannot accomplish this feat.

      Desire is the magnetism, the prayer, the request… that asks for a response. The desired response is not a filling of a lack, but the dawning of a new mode of experiencing the previous mode could neither conceive of nor concoct. The unknown is also present here, because there is desire for a mode of experience that is not in the current experiential vocabulary.

      I think Hariod has provided a great description of unity. I could try and describe my experience of it all night long, but one element that was most relevant in thinking about this today was the awareness of meaning. When my experience of unity waivers due to whatever residual mode of separated perceiving has arisen, the experience has become increasingly painful, and the pain takes a form I can only describe as meaninglessness. My experience of separation is attended by all of the elements you and Hariod and others have described– comparison, the sensation of lack, etc.– but right out front is this feeling of debilitating meaninglessness. Nothing seems meaningful. Nothing matters. My spirit is parched. In unity, everything is resplendent with meaning, and as Hariod has described, there are no clear boundaries. There is a fullness that contains the entirety of experience itself.

      These discussions often move towards a question about whether or not it is realistic to suggest we can sustain happiness or contentment, and I think it is a misplaced consideration. In part, I think it is a misperception of sorts to suggest that in a sustained state of unity consciousness all the ups and downs we have experienced in separated modes of experiencing would need to be present. I think further it is not entirely accurate to equate unity consciousness with happiness or contentment, at least of the type one has known through the lens of separated modes of experiencing.

      I have experienced fullness and meaning in conditions people might describe as painful, or in grieving, etc. But when experienced within the condition of fullness and meaning, they are rich, necessary and vital experiences– not states to be avoided, or states that evoke a sense of lack or want. This is not about choosing some experiences and eschewing others, but about experiencing all that arises within the condition of unity.

      Lastly, and I know I have gone on too long, so thank you if you made it this far… Lastly, this is not about avoidance, and it is not about seeking particular states. I don’t think unity is a state, as in an endpoint, but a mode of experiencing in which the power and love of the BIG web of all relationships, of Creation, is living within and through us. We become the idea of Creation, embodied. And I think there is tremendous potential, or power, in living within and from that condition of unity.

      I trip up sometimes, when I judge against my capability to live in this manner. I know this and can recognize it, but this isn’t about analysis as much as feeling and embodying. The judgment leads to all sorts of spin-off inner handicaps. It is like an oak sapling temporarily doubting the promise contained within it, thinking it’s not got what it takes to become a tree. Only a separated mode of experiencing could conceive of this type of thought…

      More than enough. Thank you so much for sharing your sentiments.



      • Thank you Michael!

        Your reply is very clarifying and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

        I think you and I sometimes use different words for the same thing, which makes sense because we have different references for some of our ideas.

        James Hillman uses the term soulmaking much like what you and Hariod mean by the term unity. I would also use the word immersion to describe how I feel when absorbed in something, whether it be a sensation, feeling, thought, listening or some other experience.

        I love what you say about the oak questioning its treeness, and it’s so interesting that Hillman uses the seed growing into an oak as a correlation to what he calls soulmaking. It’s a great image because it includes growing up and growing down, a vertical disposition towards life where both spiritual and material reality feed and sustain us.

        The older I get, the less I I find myself thinking about what state I am in, but probably because I have found more precise ways to reflect on why something or someone feels dissonant.

        I think dissonance occurs when there’s something yet to be understood, some woundedness resurfacing and causing pain. Perhaps it is aging, but often the recognition of dissonance comes easier, maybe because I don’t particularly enjoy living with noise, and there are ways to attend to both myself and others that lead to a restoration of harmony, even if it is sometimes of a bluesy or jazzy nature 🙂

        Jung often spoke of tension as potentially being creative, which is also helpful. Tension used to make me run away, from what I was feeling and from others. That doesn’t remove the tension but compounds it or seeks to deflect it onto others. Living the tension but attending to its need to be heard works a whole lot better perhaps because by fine tuning it, a harmonic resonance is found.

        Thanks for taking the time to quite succinctly put into words some difficult ideas. I very much appreciate your willingness to seek understanding!



        • Thanks, Debra.

          I do love the metaphor of the oak tree as you described it. I think now that you mention it I knew from one of our previous conversations that Hillman used the analogy, but it still makes a nice overlay. I wasn’t thinking of that when I wrote it.

          I continually revel in discovering the way your own journey, and that of others who have different backgrounds and anchors than my own, are able to resolve into a common denominator when the investment of time and genuine interest are both offered.

          Many thanks for your presence here.


          Liked by 1 person

      • A wonderful and enriching exchange of views; many thanks to you Michael, and to you equally Debra. You expressed earlier Michael, that in retrospect you felt a little less than entirely satisfied with your article; though whatever shortcomings you perceived surely have been more than adequately addressed ‘below the line’.


  6. “…but while they’re in full bloom it feels a lot like playing chicken with your own destruction.”

    Couldn’t resist commenting on this and giving a big “oh thank goodness, someone else is approaching the cliff….!!”

    You’re an angel, Michael.


    • Ha! Thank you, Amanda. Yes, staring over the edge with an index finger in my pursed lips, and twenty yards behind me Hafiz is practicing the mountain goat dance.


      PS – I will very much miss your posts and hope to hear of your future creative endeavors!


  7. I chuckled at your descriptions of the conflict of mind and heart. I love your challenge to press towards congruence between the two – towards wholeness:. “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


    • Thanks, Colleen. I think in the recognition or realization of congruence between the two, heaven and earth will likewise found to have been joined, or seamlessly united. And any outstanding questions about whose will is doing what will be moot… 🙂



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