A situation recently arose in which I found myself in conflict with myself, wanting to help a person that was also in conflict with himself. Interestingly enough, we both were experiencing the same conflict at the same time, and neither of us knew how to resolve it. I write this post because perhaps I have found the answer in reading Volume 1 in A Course in Miracles, and I think it's worth recording and sharing this small bit of wisdom. If you wish to reference my source, look to pages 25 and 26.
He called me on the phone, great concern in his voice, about an issue requiring my attention. If seems that the text messages we enjoyed exchanging during the day were causing him distraction from other important areas of his life. While he sincerely desired to chat with me, the ongoing dialogue was interefering with his present moment awareness and personal daily responsibilities and interests. Oops. This particular exchange of messages and the voice call he made to me to resolve the problem also occurred specifically when my time was needed in putting my children to bed. His time was also committed at that moment to band practice. So we were both stuck in the lurch. The concern in his voice was significant enough that it led me to focus on his needs before that of my children, and the urgency of the problem led him to need to address it right away, as he is responsible for things in that way.
Text messages seem to offer me an enjoyable virtual reality or parallel universe that might cause the rest of the world to diminish its significance. Hands free devices aside, the problem requires a resolution. So we talked about it, I reduced use of my phone, and assumed the problem was resolved. But maybe, a part of me knew that I didn't really resolve it. The split present moment awareness problem of existing in the physical world around me as compared with the present moment problem of of being accessible in short order by cell phone is one that I have struggled against since I first bought a device in 2003. I think it's a problem that many of us struggle against. I could likely cite a great many statistics about distracted driving here, or perhaps the cell phone industry.
So upon waking far too early this morning, I checked Facebook until I was bored. Worked on some writing. Made coffee. Realized that my mind didn't feel as securely healthy as I wished it did. So rather than allow myself to ruminate in whatever thoughts were present as a goldfish swimming in dirty water, I turned to my to-read shelf to seek the wise thoughts of another to break my thinking pattern. The book I selected this morning was A Course in Miracles, as I mentioned. Sitting and reading, in short order I found a bit of wisdom that seemed to usefully apply to the situation previously described.
"Discomfort is aroused only to bring the need for correction into awareness." page 22
Ok, this is useful. I thought of myself expressing annoyance with my children, as they misbehaved at bedtime when I was focusing on a phone conversation with our dear friend to resolve his concerns rather than focusing on the last comforting moments of the day. I was a bit gruff with them, instructing them to lie in their beds, don't talk and go to sleep while I talked on the phone. I was uncomfortable with myself both for placing the conversation as priority and also for speaking sternly with the children right before bed. I often struggle with speaking sternly with the children before bed, but I have been working towards what we call "gentle bed times."
We are in chapter 2 of the book, which explains atonement, or at-one-ment, is understanding that we ourselves are never separate from God, or the Universe, or the great source of creation. When we are feeling separate, it is actually fear that is interfering with our ability to be our true self. Interesting. So it's possible to think our way our of fear and heal our minds to greater levels of comfort in life. I'm in.
Page 25 - Strain in our minds is the presence of fear. It exists when what we want conflicts with what we do. There are two types of this conflict.
(1.) We make conflicting choices. In other words, our behavior doesn't match our priorities. This causes us to mad at ourselves because we aren't acting in harmony with what we know is right.
(2.) We behave as we think we should, but without entirely wanting to. So our behavior is consistent with our priorities, but there is still strain because a part of us doesn't want to behave that way.
Both types of mind/behavior discord leads to strain caused by underlying fear. Discord is when we do something that we don't entirely want to do. It causes negative thoughts, emotions, and undesirable behavior. It is certainly frustration, and can sometimes spark rage or coercion within ourselves. Coercion in ourselves leads to projection, or falsely placing blame for our own internal struggle on the outside world. Our mind becomes split. Is it me or is it something outside of me? This causes erratic behavior. So, returning to the two types of conflict listed above, we try to correct the problem with our thoughts by shifting from type (1.) to type (2.). But even as we know how we should behave, a part of us still doesn't want to, so we experience strain, because a part of us remains afraid. . The only way to correct this problem within ourselves is to accept a unified goal. Our decision to behave in a certain way must be internally unified.
Sounds great, but I happen to know that this is easier said than done. As much work as I have done on myself over the years, some unmet need within myself will arise that will cause unacknowledged fear leading to internal conflict. In the case of excessive cell phone use, I revel in the pleasant knowledge that I am on the minds of people not near to me. I feel loved. Maybe a part of me is a bit afraid that if I don't respond, those on the other end of the line will not feel similarly loved. Maybe they will reject me. Bringing these thoughts to the surface allow me to remind myself to trust. It's a reminder that I do need from time to time.
If breaking out of the fear based pattern causing strain is not simple or obvious, this awesome book breaks it into smaller steps that we may find useful.
The First: Conflict is the expression of fear.
The Second: Fear arises from lack of love.
The Third: The only remedy for lack of love is perfect love.
The Forth: Perfect love is the Atonement.
So... I could try to explain what the Atonement is here, but it seems that this is a major goal of the entire 622 pages of book I have in front of me. So please understand that any summary I attempt is likely grossly inadequate. But in this particular application, and based on my own background experience trying to be the best person I can possibly be myself, it seems that we need to find a way to reconnect ourselves to God, nature, the Universe, plug in to universal truth, or put life in perspective somehow. I think each of us must find our own way to do that, and we all spend our lifetimes seeking fulfillment through the various ways we discover in our earthly experiences to reconnect and find relief from the universal experience of fear.
Peace to you and yours.