The Last Temptation?

And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible to reach for a long, long time. He must learn to lay all judgment aside, and ask only what he really wants in every circumstance. Were not each step in this direction so heavily reinforced, it would be hard indeed! (M-4.I.A.8)

The quote above is from the “period of unsettling”, the 5th stage of the Development of Trust outlined in the Manual for Teachers of A Course in Miracles. I used to wonder what was meant by “heavily reinforced” and what was so hard about this stage. I always felt like whatever I was going through at the moment was hard enough! What was this going to look like?

Now I know.

Last fall I shared with you my latest revelation and some of the lessons that I learned as I came back from it (see
Unsettled, and There Is No “I” in God). I also said that I would keep you updated on what I have experienced and learned. It always takes a while for me to process the lessons. In fact, what really happens is that I live out the lesson that I experienced on the “way back” from the revelation. So I have been living in the midst of the conflict between my longing for God and my attachment to individuality. It is indeed deeply unsettling. But the distinction between Truth and illusion gets clearer and clearer all the time. And part of that clarity means I also have a still, quiet, endless Peace within me at all times. This is the “heavy reinforcement” that makes this stage tolerable. Without It I would go insane.

I’m not really experiencing any conflict that I have not experienced all along. But it is now happening on a fully conscious level so it seems more intense. The ego has taken off its gloves. Right now I am in a stage where it is coming at me all the time with what I am missing out on in life. When I am writing my book, there is an endless run of fantasies running behind my thoughts at all times. Sometimes I am distracted to the point that I have to stop writing to quiet my mind. Meditation helps, or just going off and doing something else for a while. At the end of the day when I’m done with writing, and students and chores, then the ego runs rampant unless I make a concerted effort to stay centered.

My life is good and there is nothing in it that I want or need to change. But the ego’s method for dealing with its discomfort over my attention being Elsewhere is to offer tantalizing substitutes. This has been its tactic all along, but now it is pointing out how my mind is so much clearer, how I have no baggage, and how I’m finally aware of my own power and potential. I could do anything I wanted (it offers me a thousand careers a day), I could make tons of money, and I could have any woman I wanted if I just put my mind to it. Ironically, my mind is clearer, I have no baggage, and I am aware of my power and potential because of my connection to the Holy Spirit! But this doesn’t matter to the ego. It wants to use these things to get back my attention. I will not take steps to follow the ego because it is not offering anything that I really want. But I am distracted by it, and I am aware that I am distracted to the extent that I want to be distracted. My life is now wholly about following the Holy Spirit, but the ego’s constant whine is, “What’s in this for me?” And its discomfort at being disregarded is still often my own because I am not yet willing to completely let it go. This is also unsettling.

I often tell my students that the hardest stage in the Development of Trust is the second one, the “period of sorting out”. It’s also probably the longest stage, but I’m not done yet so I’m not sure! And I do have to say, as often as I am deeply uncomfortable staring into the face of my own desire for separation from God with no one else to blame for it, this stage is still not as uncomfortable as the period of sorting out. And this is because of the “heavy reinforcement” of Peace. While the ego is running its constant fantasy tapes in the background, Limitless Peace is right here with me in the present when I choose to be with It. It is as though I have already arrived at the summit, but I am still looking back with longing at what the ego once seemed to offer me. So I spend a lot more time coming into the present and connecting to the Peace that is already here. I realize that the conflict I am experiencing doesn’t matter: It doesn’t change God in any way. And it is not my conflict, unless I choose for it to be. I can ride out the ego’s attempts to get my attention. And in doing this, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that the ego is not me, and that the deep, unwavering Peace is me.

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