Entering the Dialogue, Part 3

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Course Ideas

I started this series of posts because I came to a realization: I was not being who I know myself to be in some way. It’s like watching yourself when you’re just coming under the influence, observing that what you’re doing is strangely inconsistent, and a little unexpected. It’s called dissembling. For me this came across in my attraction to discussions that in some sense were futile.

We do this sometimes because we care. Because what matters to us matters. But also because when we are hurting in any way—meaning that when any aspect of our being is in conflict with any other—we instinctively try to find the moments we can grab hold of to set things straight. We end up in argument with the world over ourselves. It’s actually quite fascinating. But this is not creating. It is not being part of the dialogue that Creation in fact, is.

It became obvious to me that what matters more than anything else and in the deepest way possible, is the fullness of being who we are. We’re not only more content when we meet life in this way, we’re more powerful. We are free to express without effort or contrivance. What emerges under is the truth of who we are.

I love A Course of Love. I love it because after reading it at least three or four times, over several years now, it still feels fresh when I pick it back up. If I put it down for a few months, when I return to it I’m somebody a little different, and it meets me there. I read a three word sentence today I don’t remember reading before, at least not nearly with the same vibrant connection to it, and it made me laugh. It said, “Wholeness is actual.”

Now try and explain this to someone who doesn’t see it. It’s almost impossible. To try and explain what this sentence means I’m afraid I’d end up telling you the entire history of my life to try and put it in context for you, but it still may not compute. And yet in my heart it resonates profoundly. The way some things hit us depends on who we are when they hit, and this is the Dialogue of Creation I think. This is at least part of it. It’s not enough to know the meaning of the words. It’s the experience of the words as they enter us, and what moves in us as we receive them, and the response that arises between these two that is real.

The word real is often used as follows: either there’s a monster under the bed or there’s not, just look and see. If you don’t find it, then it’s probably not real, or (and odds are strongly against this being true) it snuck out for coffee. But I’m not trying to be flip. We agree that a baseball is real. A pitcher, a catcher. The grandstands. The word actual is interesting because we often say it when we wish to clarify a perception. We say, “Actually, what happened is…” or “What I actually meant was…” To say wholeness is actual is to not only state that wholeness is real, but to state that it hasn’t been previously perceived as such. It’s been overlooked somehow.

Dialogue is a perfect vehicle for understanding the actuality of wholeness, because a dialogue is not a conversation, a debate, or an argument. It’s more like sex in the sense that good dialogue enfolds its participants in a particular sort of communion, and produces new life. It is predicated on vulnerability and intimacy, on respect and trust, on giving and receiving. In its most powerful form a dialogue reveals new understanding neither participant quite possessed on their own. A fullness transforms them both, bringing into being a new awareness, and what is actual is the wholeness of it.

What is actual is not Speaker A, nor Speaker B, nor an idea that might stand on its own afterwards. What is actual is not a particular outcome or agreement, but the dialogue itself—the whole thing at once, the relationship that yields transformation. That is real. That is wholeness and it is actual.

Creation is a dialogue because creation is the transformation of what is, and while we’re seeking to be whole we cannot participate in transformation. That’s because without the ability to let ourselves go, we cannot be transformed. While we define ourselves by ideology, status, position, history, gender, color, training badges, or any of the myriad other parameters the ego would paint on the sign on the office door, we cannot truly be creative. We cannot fully participate.

The miracle is that dialogue can also be healing. Perfection is not required to enter the dialogue, but the acceptance of what is actual is. Acceptance of what is so allows us to be transformed without fear of being lost. We discover that the opposite occurs: we become ever more profound embodiments of who we actually are. And this is creation.


  1. J.D. Riso says

    Hello Michael – Precious are the books that we can reread over and over and still find new insights. It seems to me that it’s a sign of growth to be able to determine whether a discussion is futile or not. So many people talk to fill the silence. Others love to hear themselves talk, probably because it makes them feel important. The art of conversation. Now that’s a fascinating subject. I almost want to discuss it. 😉 Warmest wishes—Julie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie. I agree with you–there is growth in recognizing how we are engaging in ways that aren’t working. I think we’re drawn to situations that reveal us to ourselves, in a sense, and when we recognize it we have the opportunity for genuine transformation. The art of conversation… ha! Yes! In A Course of Love dialogue isn’t just verbal speech, but the giving and receiving of one’s life with the “relatedness” of all. Our lives are the voice, in a sense. Verbal dialogue is certainly part of it, but not the only form of participation. Even in silence, alone in a mountain retreat, we can be in this dialogue, since unity and relationship connect each to each…



  2. Hi Michael,
    I believe I understand. 🙂 Especially this part, “Dialogue is a perfect vehicle for understanding the actuality of wholeness, because a dialogue is not a conversation, a debate, or an argument.” I often think of the dialogue in art. I put down a line, and then I wait and see if I receive a response, and sometimes that response is my hand’s movement, going for another line, or a dot, or a pause (maybe even a glass of water).

    I wonder about how dialogue can be non-verbal in the sense that creation is the blurry line between form and formless…

    When you write about your love for the Course of Love, it makes me want to read it. I think it’s because of how this one text meets you exactly where you are, and I wonder how many of us form relationships with texts like that, many of them sacred and poetic in content. How wonderful that this book lives for you in the way that it does. I ought to read your part II of this dialogue. Have a wonderful Sunday!

    Appreciating your expression! Ka

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Ka!

      Thank you for this. You’re right about the idea of dialogue as it is presented in A Course of Love: it’s not just speaking, but the call and response of life to life, and life to Love. It can certainly emerge in art, poetry, music… in whatever form of expression we actualize I think. Even just holding the awareness of wholeness in our hearts as we stand in the world is participation. The only moments in which we’re not participating are those in which we’ve lost sight of what is (the reality of unity and relationship) and begin responding to illusion (the perception of our separateness and isolation). When we do that, it’s as if we shift subtly onto a delusional treadmill. Things change, time passes, but genuine transformation is out of our grasp while we’re caught in that space…

      Great to connect again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Even just holding the awareness of wholeness in our hearts as we stand in the world is participation” yes, I am with you. 🙂 May my words reflect that experience of unity. Even times when we think we are separate or separating ourselves, ‘as you say’ delusion… are necessary and part of the fabric of connectedness, and moving closer to it, I think, the perception and the greater awareness of it, ultimately. I feel great joy, connecting! Aloha Michael

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Michael, I liked your thoughts on Actuality of Wholeness and on dialog. I recently listened to Brene Brown interview on Belonging, and thought of your discussion here while listening: https://soundcloud.com/onbeing/unedited-brene-brown-with-krista-tippett-feb2018

    On a funner note, we just hiked through Walnut Canyon and explored the ancient dwelling there, the wind singing in the pines, the Arizona walnuts dotting the canyon’s bottom, the sandstone painted in diagonal stripes by the millennia of wind.. The dialog between rock and wind, rock and water, rock and humans, what was created, takes your breath away. I was reminded by your hike there too as you once mentioned it.

    Enjoy first signs of Spring!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      Thank you for the link. I look forward to checking it out soon! Yes, I was once in Walnut Canyon and loved it. And your description of the dialogue between the forces in the land is beautiful… Such a lovely and creative conversation the natural world is having! We’re not quite into spring here yet, but I will enjoy it when it arrives. So nice to connect to the land through your own unique voice, Kristina…


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Michael, what a brilliant post, you are a writer!
    I am not too sure how to comment because of the richness of your writing, so in this moment, I will cut and past what was so powerful for me. These are your words, and this is your power.
    Perfection is not required to enter the dialogue, but the acceptance of what is actual is. Acceptance of what is so allows us to be transformed without fear of being lost. We discover that the opposite occurs: we become ever more profound embodiments of who we actually are. And this is creation.
    Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    I love that experience of reading something, seeing something, hearing something, being a certain way….hits us in a whole different way or level. Sometimes I randomly pick up a book to a random page and on that page is something I may have read many times and, Boom…it just resonates differently because I am just a bit different than when I last read it. That feeling of resonance is so good!
    I also love what you said to Ka, “just holding the awareness of wholeness in our hearts as we stand in the world is participation. The only moments in which we’re not participating are those in which we’ve lost sight of what is (the reality of unity and relationship) and begin responding to illusion (the perception of our separateness and isolation). ” I go in and out of that. In my most Authentic Self, I am wholeheartedly believing in Unity. My smaller self feels very separate from Trump and all he is doing to irreparably destroy our planet. I mean, yes there must be a bigger picture and I do believe that, but in the meantime, I grieve the loss of species and habitat and beauty. The grief is real. It is what it is, and it comes from love.
    Big love to you, Michael. Your posts are so deep, though provoking and full of love.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Mary! I think most all of us go in and out of this. I do, too, or in coming back from the cold I wouldn’t have written this. Haha! I do love that feeling of resonance, and of contentedness with the knowing that we are. Coming home to who we are is a kind of resonance I think. The thing with Trump is hard to put a finger on. I mean, we can all make definitive and emotionally intense statements about what is happening, but it’s clearly also enmeshed in our collective stance to things, and our collective response to life. It’s really interesting to me, because I think in a more profound way than ever, we’re responding to our own creations in the modern age, moreso than the natural world. I think your own response, Mary, is rooted in your attentiveness to the natural world, but collectively, at least in the US, it seems we’re responding to ideas and threats as much of our own making as rooted in fact. We become entangled in our perceptions and it is hard to escape them. It requires that resonant moment of wondering, “does it have to be like this? what else could it be like…?”

      Blessings and much love to you as well…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. A tremendous article, Michael; thank you for your candour and deep insight. I’m right with you on the ‘dissembling’ vs ‘actual’ business, and have always liked using the term ‘actualised’ in referencing knowing oneself deeply — rather, knowing the nature of thought and conditioning deeply. Yet still there’s a delicate dance between (let’s call it) being true to oneself and the dissembling that’s largely unavoidable in communicating effectively with the other. So, it seems to me we need to embrace this contrivance in communicating, this same dissembling, as yet another expression of our being true to ourselves. Nonetheless, as you so rightly say, “We do this sometimes because we care”, we want to engage and give validation to the other and also to render effective our own engagement with them, and that involves meeting them halfway — halfway to being our true selves and at the same time qualifying, sacrificing some of our authenticity so as to be able to engage. To be truly authentic can be frightening to others, it seems to me. Just imagine if others could see us with thought bubbles coming out of our heads; they would be horrified!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Yes! The universe was quite wise to keep out the thought bubbles, except for the fact that we perhaps are the thought bubbles in the universe. 🙂

      You bring up an interesting point for me, Hariod, and which is related to the genesis of this piece I think. There is an act of giving that we offer to one another when we try and deeply understand each other, and it may involve giving the benefit of the doubt to an idea that doesn’t resonate with us. I wouldn’t call that dissembling or even losing our own authenticity, but I think it becomes dissembling when the only way to continue the exchange is to remain in that state, and we choose to do so. If, for instance, I am invited into your world, and I take a brief trip there to explore it with you, but you never make the return trip to visit mine and give it the same benefit of your own doubt, then we’re not having a dialogue anymore. If I stay, now I’ve effectively put myself on the shelf. I’m no longer present without a certain discomfort or inauthenticity. And that’s when the exchange becomes merely the passage of time, with no real creative efficacy.

      I’d agree with you we need to embrace the contrivances communication sometimes requires. And that at times communication is probably not possible without a certain withholding of our authenticity, but then this is simply no longer dialogue of the sort described in A Course of Love. Within ACOL, dialogue is what occurs when we are in relationship authentically, (with ourselves, with one another, etc.), which simply may not obtain in every encounter.

      Here’s a nice quote from ACOL about dialogue as it is discussed there, in the widest sense: “This relationship between Self and Other, Self and Life, Self and God, Humanity and Divinity, is the dialogue of which we speak. It may seem to suggest duality but it suggests relationship…”


      Liked by 2 people

      • “. . . we perhaps are the thought bubbles in the universe.” What a great thought; I like that; it ties-in neatly with the notion that the universe is gradually becoming self-aware.

        I’m not sure I entirely understand what you and ACOL mean in speaking of ‘dialogue’, but I think for myself, the times I’ve felt most deeply and intimately engaged with another have been very largely non-verbal. It’s been as if the connection suddenly has a compelling and undeniable ‘weight’ to it, that itself supplants the need for verbal interaction. It’s a palpable feeling with tremendous energy behind it. We all have it at times, I know, and to be clear, I’m not talking about sexual intimacy, but something seemingly even more instinctive and primordial. Is this the sort of thing that’s meant here by ‘dialogue’?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hariod,

          You may have to make do with an oblique answer here, because although I wrote this post with actual verbal dialogue in mind, that type of exchange is only a small aspect of what ACOL describes as dialogue. ACOL refers to creation itself as a dialogue, suggesting that what arises does so as a response to what is desired, and that there is an ongoing transformation of creation as we respond anew to what is. We are in creative dialogue with the whole in every moment, and our part (if ACOL had its way) would be that each of us brings a unique voice, expression or intonation of wholeness. When we are authentically ourselves, we are part of the dialogue that creation is, and we make unity and relationship tangible. We literally bring it into being if you will, or reveal it. What ACOL is suggesting is that for the world to truly be transformed we will need to live and move and breath and act as authentically–which is to say as expressions of unity. The challenges we are facing are the culmination of a world borne largely of our belief in separation, and our historical choice to think and act as the separate.

          Creation is a dialogue because there is no other way. There is only the reality of our unity, and the opportunity to give that fundamental reality expression through relationship. This concept is a little hard for me to explain, as it speaks really to the core of the entire work…


          Liked by 1 person

          • Sounds a little like Martin Buber’s concept of self-actualisation through engagement, yes?

            Dialogue and existence

            “In I and Thou, Buber introduced his thesis on human existence. Inspired by Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity and Kierkegaard’s Single One, Buber worked upon the premise of existence as encounter. He explained this philosophy using the word pairs of Ich-Du and Ich-Es to categorize the modes of consciousness, interaction, and being through which an individual engages with other individuals, inanimate objects, and all reality in general. Theologically, he associated the first with the Jewish Jesus and the second with the apostle Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus, a Jew). Philosophically, these word pairs express complex ideas about modes of being—particularly how a person exists and actualizes that existence. As Buber argues in I and Thou, a person is at all times engaged with the world in one of these modes.”

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            • I’m not familiar with what Buber describes re self-actualization through engagement, but reading a bit more about Buber’s ideas in I and Thou on-line I’d think the answer very likely is yes. I’d guess if there were any distinctions they might be in the notion of what is on offer when we embody this deep relatedness. I don’t know what Buber wrote or thought about the implications of engaging with life this way, but in ACOL our actions are viewed as more or less powerless when they are taken in ways that do not have, as their point or origin and enduring, implicit expression, this deep relatedness. At the risk of a terrible analogy, and invoking a rabbit hole we probably don’t want to venture down this evening, it is in a sense the difference between a purely logical artificial intelligence–a zombie if you will–and the unified thinking-feeling of a being that not only knows him or herself as localized expression of a boundless field, but enables the mobilization of that field through his or her life. In ACOL the idea is quite clear: the scope of what may arise in the world of our direct experience is predicated on how we perceive, and on who we know ourselves to be. So were we to know ourselves, not as an intellectual concept, but in the heart of our being, in the way that Buber describes, I would see little distinction between that and what ACOL terms wholeheartedness…

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Since I retired from my job last year, I have been moving toward becoming more authentic as a natural process, so I was drawn to your words: “what matters more than anything else and in the deepest way possible, is the fullness of being who we are. We’re not only more content when we meet life in this way, we’re more powerful.” I know that’s true and I yearn for more of it. Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been in little arguments with the world over myself. And I think it’s okay, because I’m figuring things out. You have reminded me that acceptance is the key and I can move into more dialogue. I don’t have to argue. It’s quite a relief.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi JoAnna,

      I think it’s definitely okay. It’s these encounters that leave us feeling a little off, a little uncertain, a little less than–that reveal to us how we’re approaching things. They’re great gifts in that regard, aren’t they? And yes I think acceptance clears quite a path. We can breath into that more easily sometimes than others… But it’s hard to express ourselves truly when we are resisting what is so…


      Liked by 1 person

  8. the book that sits in my bedside table that I have yet to read, too busy reading your wonderful works instead 🙂 ha, still absorbing the dialogue posts here and reading the responses which have been amazing so not much to add except in agreement with the wholeness of it all ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Kim. Glad you enjoyed it! The topic of wholeness is one I love. It’s this simple awareness that changes everything. When we understand and participate in wholeness we are alive in new and ever creative ways…


      Liked by 1 person

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