Seek not outside yourself

I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of my imaginary TV screen, rummaging in an imaginary drawer filled with imaginary DVDs of my many seeming lifetimes in this apparently endless dream of exile from the one Love we never really left. But try as I might, I couldn’t find the one I was looking for! You know, the special one I’d been robotically watching over and over and over again for years while begging for help from my right mind to find a new and improved DVD of this so-called life of mine. I glanced up to find Jesus (that symbol of our awakened mind, inner Teacher of the non-dualistic Love we continue to share beyond this dream of separate interests) leaning against the wall, arms crossed, brows raised.

“Lost something?” he asked.

I sighed and closed the drawer, stretched and stood. Funny, it did feel like a loss. After so many years of nagging déjà vu around the same old issues on the screen with the same old co-stars, of praying for a new DVD of forgiveness–a way to see this him, her, and it truly innocent of the “crime” of failing to meet my needs–this new movie in which I was learning to make the relationship about them (as Ken Wapnick recommended) left me feeling strangely detached and unmoored. Cleansed of my need to be right, my need to judge, compare, justify, evaluate; my need to need; it just seemed a whole lot less involving than, say, the old rife-with-delicious-conflict story I knew by heart.

Truth was, compared to this DVD starring Susan on her best behavior; treating this person and that person the same—like acquaintances or friends from whom I expected nothing—just trying to listen, ask polite questions, and be kind; seemed, well, how do I put it–boring! After all, as any dramatist worth her salt knows, story=conflict, conflict, conflict. Subtract the conflict and you might as well just return to your right mind.

Jesus laughed, eavesdropping again on my thoughts.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

“You always do.”

“OK, I know I’ve been asking for this for like a thousand years. And it’s true this new and improved, conflict-free DVD makes my right mind seem a whole lot more attractive by comparison, which is ultimately a very good thing. But, it just feels—I don’t know—really flat, you know what I’m saying?”

“Not so much.”

“I mean, watching this new civil relationship, I just can’t seem to muster the energy to judge or argue, attempt to rescue or destroy my co-stars. I still go through my days sorely tempted again and again to react to incoming threats and demands but I seem to automatically turn to you for advice—even when I don’t see you like I sort of see you now; you know?—and you always tell me the same thing.”

He shrugged. “You think I maybe need a new shtick?”

“Just be kind, you know? Because it’s no big deal. That’s all you ever have to say.”

“I see your point,” he said.

“Even if that means letting the other person be right. Even if you don’t agree with what the other person is asking or doing. Unless it would hurt them or me, just meet them where they think they are in the condition they think they’re in as nicely as possible without adding to their fear or mine. Kind of like you do with me, right?”

He nodded.

“See, it’s just like it says in Chapter 29, VII. ‘Seek not outside yourself.’ You know, because there is nothing out there. My needing to be right and make you wrong will never make me happy. My needing anything outside my mind will never make me happy. Because the screen is really blank. Only I don’t know that for a long time. I believe I’m suffering at the hands of my co-stars and I keep charging back into the movie in a futile attempt to make things right because I keep thinking I’m the star instead of the screenwriter/director. But then, the Course says: ‘Seek not outside yourself. The search implies you are not whole within and fear to look upon your devastation, but prefer to seek outside yourself for what you are.’”

“I couldn’t have put it better myself,” he said.

“Ha! So I just need to watch the movie with you until I can remember it’s my creation. And then choose a new DVD in which I learn to simply be kind. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

“Really?”

“I mean, apparently I did that but it feels crazy awkward, you know; like suddenly being asked to write with your left hand.”

“Ah.”

“I guess that after years of practicing forgiveness from moment to moment—asking to see things differently by looking at them with you—the muscle of judgment has begun to waste away. Because each time I reach for it as a new demand or attack appears in the new movie, I find it disabled. And this new kindness muscle seems a little stronger as I remind myself hourly, OK—from nanosecond to nanosecond—that I don’t know what I need. If there’s no hole in me, there’s no need to fill it with outside attention, approval, cooperation, agreement, or support. I can just recognize another’s fear as my own and let it be, let it go. Come to my special relationships as if unacquainted, untainted by our seeming history together.”

“Go on,” he said.

“I’m not really giving up anything by giving up my need to be right. My self-worth doesn’t come from the movies I’ve made about my tragic trajectory through this imaginary world. My self-worth still and always only comes from God. Not from anyone or thing outside myself. These needs I once held so dear are just shabby substitutes for the all-inclusive Love I never really lost. And so I can come now to the screen without need, seeing only expressions of love or calls for love when sensing someone needing me to be a certain way or me needing them to be a certain way.”

Jesus was tilting his head, smiling, the way I caught myself looking at my daughter when she was home recently from her freshman year of college over winter break, sounding so suddenly wise.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

He smiled.

“I get an A+, right?”

He held up his hand.

I high-fived him.

“So boring’s maybe not so bad?” he said.

“Right. So, now that we got that straightened out; want to watch the old DVD with me again just once more, you know; for old time’s sake? I made some Popcorn.”

“Ha.”

I started rooting through the drawer again; it had to be in here somewhere.

“Well, sure, if you can find it. I mean, it’s your DVD.”

“Voila,” I said, holding it up to the light. “If you’ll just grab that box of tissues over there, I’ll fire this sucker up.”


“Seek not outside yourself. For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol fails. Heaven cannot be found where it is not, and there can be no peace excepting there.”


I am heading to Temecula at the end of the week for a workshop with Ken Wapnick and will post as soon as possible when I return.

I am now speaking regularly at ACIM Gather radio, Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m., EST.

Comments

  1. Jennifer walker says:

    Very interesting…my dad shared your article with me as he always does…well I finallu read it in its entirety….n I needed that… Thank you

  2. All superb insights; thanks! This one particularly grabbed me today: “Subtract the conflict and you might as well just return to your right mind.” … and the quote at the end reminded me of some prose written by a teacher of mine many years ago entitled “An idol falls” about making specifics special in our minds; I learned a great deal from realizing that I had made a particular teaching ‘special’ (as well as the teachers), and by going past the special love, through the special hate and ultimately beyond it, realized (and am still realizing) that only our completely shared intrinsic Oneness justifies dropping any sort of idolatry; if there’s no ‘outside’, then what can possibly conflict? 🙂

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