Women don’t like it when men glare at them probingly, hungrily. But I loved it that he could see every inch and corner of my mind. “He has x-ray vision!” I thought, while I was reading the book A Course In Miracles.
A Course In Miracles is a mind-correction course. To correct something, we have to understand it. To this end, A Course In Miracles (ACIM) explains the state of our mind with clarity and exactness.
Our mind is split says ACIM. Split between the truth and all other illusions that we have created, which, being illusions, are all false. All the illusions that we have created, emanate from a conviction that we are separate from each other. This conviction of being separate is the ego, says ACIM. It then explains the workings of this falsehood, the ego, in detail.
In talking of the falsehood of the ego, it does not in any way dishonor our individuality and our unique beauty. In fact, again and again it underlines our intrinsic worth, which is far greater than anything that our petty minds can imagine. “You, then, have two conflicting evaluations of yourself in your mind, and they cannot both be true. You do not yet realize how completely different these evaluations are, because you do not understand how lofty the Holy Spirit’s perception of you really is,” says ACIM.
In addition to this false notion of being separate, truth still exists within us. Thus our mind is split, where both the false and the true abide. The truth that continues to exist in us, because truth can never be destroyed, is our inner guide, the voice of our true Self.
I have come to view this split mind and all its inner conflicts as the battle between Durga and Mahishasur. My job is to side with Durga my true Self, not Mahishasur the impostor. Now as the story tells us, Mahishasur keeps taking new forms, sometimes as a bull, sometimes as an elephant, but Durga always recognizes him and slays him. So that is what the ACIM’s detailed explanation of the ego does — it helps us recognize the ego, the Mahishasur in us, that keeps popping up in multifarious ways, so that we may choose again and again to side with Durga instead of Mahishasur.
Comparison, suspicion, viciousness, fear, are the hallmarks of egoistic, petty, false thinking. As we learn to observe our thoughts more and more, each thought that contains these attributes is to be rejected.
“The ego literally lives by comparisons. Equality is beyond its grasp,” says the ACIM. In another place it says, “The ego is therefore capable of suspiciousness at best and viciousness at worst.” So whenever we encounter thoughts of comparison within us, however minute, seeing our self as lesser than or greater than any another being, it is not ok to let that thought harbor within us. If we are serious about feeling happy and peaceful, about living an authentic life, it is not ok to harbor egoistic thoughts within, and each and every moment the attempt is to be made to move towards equality among our brothers.
Harboring egoistic thoughts of pseudo-humility or pseudo-greatness does not make us a bad or sinful. We are utterly perfect creations of God, a perfection that is totally indestructible, with joy and peace being our true attributes — this is again and again emphasized by ACIM. However, harboring egoistic thoughts of falsehood is just plain sad, tragic rather — that we keep our self bound in a mindset that destroys our happiness.
As we choose to side with our true Self, our ego becomes more vicious, taking us to moments of rapture and then right the next day making us feel shitty about our self. On a pristine morning as I approached my yoga mat I was feeling lousy and depressed. Just the previous evening I had been dancing about in the living room happily. I recognized this stark and mean change of mood as the ego acting up. “You had so many weapons to slay Mahishasur,” I said to Durga, “what do I do?” Then I realized that I have multiple weapons at my disposal too: awareness of my breath, just plain physical exercise of the kind I enjoy like swimming, and cycling, activities that give me happiness like painting and being with nature, consciously being grateful one by one of the many ways I am already blessed, having true conversations with myself via writing, and just plain awareness, with fascination, even of my negative thoughts. We all have been given our own unique set of weapons to side with Durga and slay Mahishasur again and again as it raises its head. To me, to always move in the direction of happiness and living a true and authentic life, is a sure-shot way of siding with Durga. This includes giving our self the permission to feel sad when we are sad, rest when we are tired. It is the vicious ego in us that keeps on with its self-critical litany inside our mind.
Just as the ego is so good at making us feel shitty about our self, it also changes shape and gives a false sense of greatness. “They have plain lost it!” we tend to think of others. This is just another form of the viciousness of the ego. This false sense of greatness, greater than, more sensible than, wiser than others in our life, is explained beautifully in ACIM in the section in the Text titled Grandeur and Grandiosity.
Grandeur comes from connecting to our true Self, our intrinsic self worth and holiness, that comes from being an intrinsic and crucial part of the whole universe. “Grandeur is of God, and only of Him. Therefore it is in you. Whenever you become aware of it, however dimly, you abandon the ego automatically, because in the presence of the grandeur of God the meaninglessness of the ego becomes perfectly apparent,” says ACIM. Connecting to that sense of intrinsic worth that fills us with a peaceful grandeur does not require us to connect with “God” religiously with piety. Any sense of connection to the Whole, to the limitless universe, maybe by singing with abandon, by being with nature, by delving into the ever-changing field of energy via science, all fill us with that peaceful sense of being unlimited, whole, complete. Grandiosity comes from the ego acting up when we feel we know better and strut around in self-righteousness.
Having explained the workings of our mind in detail, so that we may observe and understand it better, ACIM says, “Do not be afraid of the ego. It depends on your mind, and as you made it by believing in it, so you can dispel it by withdrawing belief from it.” Yet, it recognizes that dispelling the ego by withdrawing belief from it is challenging for us. Our investment into a false sense of a separate self is so deep rooted. After the Text portion of ACIM, is the Workbook for students, where it systematically works on correcting our mind. Before I go into how the Workbook has helped me, there are some more intricacies of workings of the ego to be discussed. Particularly, how it uses the currency of guilt to propagate and maintain itself.
This article is part of an ongoing extended book review of A Course In Miracles.
Image credit: Moon, Universe, Space, Milky Way from Pixabay.com