When I heard that we were going to get hit by a mutant hurricane in late October, I never would have guessed it would have been as devastating to the Jersey shore and other areas as it was.
Although we made adequate enough preparations for Hurricane Sandy and remained safe in our house, I was not prepared to have all forms of communication down (my landline, cell phone, internet, and television), a potential long-term power outage, the inability to easily get gasoline (no electricity = no working gas pumps, and we need electricity to pump drinking water from our well), and the supermarket potentially closed for days.
I was scared. For about 3 days I was stuck in fear and survival mode and found myself plagued by thoughts about having “enough.” “Will we have enough gasoline to run our generator beyond today?” “Where will we get more gas when we need it?” (We heard of only one open gas station with a 2-3 hour wait and it would likely run out of gas soon.) “Will we have enough food until the supermarkets reopen?” “Do our parents have enough food and water?”
Threats to bodily basic needs are anxiety provoking indeed, because I think the body is me. There has got to be a better way.
Here are some A Course in Miracles-inspired lessons that came forth for me in this experience:
“The ego relishes fear”
For 3 days I made only a meager effort at reducing the level of fear I felt. I wanted the relief from fear to come from outside of myself in the form of knowing my parents had electricity, knowing we had “enough” gas to keep our generator going, or by having our means of communication restored. I felt a surprising resistance to picking up my ACIM book or getting quiet. The fear had a seductive feeling to it… like the ONLY way out of the fear was to fix things “out there.”
The ego becomes strong in strife.
– A Course In Miracles (FIP T-5.III.8)
The ego WANTS me to worry and to stay in fear, because pain is a strong witness that the ego must be real. At times, the fear can feel insurmountable but making a genuine effort to find a little willingness to turn to the Holy Spirit is all that is needed for a shift to occur.
The effort I needed to genuinely turn to the Holy Spirit reminded me of a scene in the 1982 film, Poltergeist, when Diane is frantically trying to reach her kids’ room at the end of the “endless hallway.” As she runs towards the door at the end of the hallway, the hallway stretches out and lengthens, keeping the door out of reach. With a final burst of energy and effort, she is able to reach the door in time to save her children.
This determined effort to run through this “endless hallway” of fear is what I needed to make. It is MY responsibility to take my fearful perceptions to the Holy Spirit, and these were perceptions that my ego WANTED me to hang on to. It was as if I had to keep my mind’s eye fixated on the door of that “endless hallway” (the door being the Holy Spirit), while there were screeching witnesses for fear all over the hallway walls. But the instant my gaze fixated on the door at the end of the hallway, it was immediately within my reach. I just had to make the effort to be willing to not look elsewhere, even if only for an instant.
This required not just a pleading, “Holy spirit help us!” while continuing to generate fear and worry, but a trust that the Holy Spirit is HERE no matter what my body’s eyes are seemingly showing me. Once I touched this, I could start to see the miracles and synchronicities that were already occurring around me: my neighbor offered us use of her gas stove so we could cook our food, another neighbor offered extra gasoline for our generator, we were in the right place to provide someone in need with extra space heaters… and the list goes on.
Self-talk suggestion: “I am willing to look ONLY to the Holy Spirit in this moment, despite whatever it is that my body’s eyes are showing me. Holy Spirit, I bring you everything that I think I see and everything that I am feeling.”
“I very much believe that I am a body, and recognizing this is important”
Intellectualizing the Course and DOING the Course are two different things. The Course assures us that this is all a dream, and that we are not these bodies, but the Course also says that we’ve made this very real for ourselves. We SURE have! Experiencing “threats” to my basic needs showed me how much I still believe that I am a body. And this is not something that I need to worry about correcting on my own. If I try to correct this mistake on my own, I’m doing the Holy Spirit’s job for it, which I am asked NOT to do.
The only way of reversing our “tiny mad idea” of separation is to be exactly where we are at. We cannot pretend that we are anywhere else. If I am scared, worried, or angry, I allow myself to be scared, worried or angry. By accepting where I am at and then taking everything that I think and feel to the Holy Spirit, I open myself to a shift in perception. This shift in perception is ALREADY given, but we won’t see it until we’re ready to see it. We can’t deny what we see alone. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide to true perception.
By being willing to look WITH the Holy Spirit at how I believe I am a body, I open myself up to having an experience, which will teach me that I am not a body, when I am ready.
Self-talk suggestion: “I allow myself to be where I am at. Holy Spirit, teach me the right perception of the body because I believe it is me.” (inspired by FIP T-8.IX.1)
“Your home is not here”
The familiar area that I know and love has been drastically changed, and I felt that familiar feeling of the “world getting turned upside down.”
According to Ch. 18 in ACIM, our “original error” which seemed to fragment Heaven (reality) into separate pieces occurred when we decided to make a substitution for reality. In other words, the world as I know it IS my chosen substitution for Heaven. I have a special relationship with the world I see with my body’s eyes.
The world arose to hide [our error of substituting illusion for truth], and became the screen on which it was projected and drawn between you and the truth.
-ACIM (FIP T-18.I.6; OE T-18.II.6)
We feel guilty about our choice for choosing the world, because choosing for something other than Heaven was a scary thing to do. So as we witness the destruction of our homes and land, we’re shaken to our core, because it becomes obvious that our roots are very shallow.
Salvation is no more than a reminder this world is not your home. -ACIM (FIP T-25.VI.6)
Our whole world can turn “upside down” because it is built on a foundation that is false. Anything that can “come and go, shift and change, suffer and die” (FIP M-12.6) is part of the dream of separation and it is not part of us. We want to remember truth, because it makes us happy.
I was unable to speak with my family during and after the storm due to the phones being down. If I remained locked in worry about my family members’ safety, I was affirming this dream of separation and giving the ego the fuel that it desired. However, in these circumstance at this particular time, I could not NOT worry about my family, because I believed that this was all really happening. We have to be where we are at. Yet I CAN actively take my worry to the Holy Spirit. This is my responsibility.
Self-talk suggestion: “My home is not in this world. I am willing to learn this. Truth has not left me and this dream is nothing to be afraid of. I am safe, I am loved, and nothing can hurt me in truth.”
“EVERY challenge that you encounter is an opportunity to look at your hidden beliefs with the Holy Spirit.”
In our “decent into fear” into the dream of separation, we made up lots of mistaken thoughts and beliefs. The Course is asking us to take the Holy Spirit by the hand, so we can retrace and look at every mistaken belief with the Holy Spirit in order for it to be undone:
The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections and the wild substitutions that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason. – ACIM (FIP T-18.I.8).
Here are some hidden beliefs that I was able to look at solely because of this stormy experience:
- I had already decided what the external picture should look like in order to keep Corinne peaceful.
- Being on a spiritual path does NOT mean that the picture of my world will stay pretty. Rather, it means that no matter what the picture “out there” is, I am taking what I see to the Holy Spirit to be given the EXPERIENCE of truth and peace within.
- Anytime I am angry or upset, that is just my ego’s plan for salvation NOT working out (again!).
- There is a tendency to want to get into a comfort zone FIRST and THEN practice the Course after I’m back to peace. With a tiny bit of willingness, we can work the Course even in the midst of overwhelming fear.
- The Course isn’t about making the world turn out OK. It is about leading us to see it for what it really is.
Self-talk suggestion: “Being upset is an indicator that I’m hitting on an ego hidden belief. I am willing to look at what is coming up WITH the Holy Spirit. I withhold and hide nothing.”
My heart goes out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. Being in this world of form is not easy. Yet with every challenge the ego calls forth, there is a blazing miracle right beside it – a chance to be willing to see differently under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and to experience the truth behind the form. Following the Holy Spirit is “the easiest thing in the world, and the only thing that is easy, because it is not of the world” (FIP T-7.XI.1).