You are asked to give up nothing
As I contemplate what this new year will look like, this lesson came to mind: we are being asked to give up nothing to have everything. For me, it is a teaching that expresses, at its heart, both joy and compassion.
And you will think, in glad astonishment, that for all this you up gave up nothing!
(A Course in Miracles, T-16.VI.11:4)
I believe this is true at the most profound level, in that we are being showered, constantly and always, with an unconditional love beyond what our wee human minds can comprehend or measure. We do not need to do anything or accomplish anything or heal anything to receive this. We do not need to act in any specific way to "deserve" this love, and we certainly are not being asked to suffer or give anything up for this love to be given to each and every one of us.
This lesson is played out again and again in our lifetimes, in many ways and situations, to provide invitations and learning opportunities for this message that we are not being asked to give up anything good and beneficial to us to have everything.
In this time and space we experience unrelenting feelings of rage, jealousy, indignation and hurt. We cling to ideas of ourselves based on our work, social status, wealth, health, and heritage. We reinforce, and are being reinforced, with preferred models of sacrifice, working until our physical and mental health suffers, and heartlessly competing for limited resources. We are told to suffer for our art, to give up worldly possessions to be closer to God, to trade off our career for our family or our family for our career, and on an on to endless ridiculousness.
But if this statement is true, that we are being asked to give up nothing, then why does is it evoke so much anxiety, fear and/or anger when we think of "giving up" something that is no longer serving us, whether a grudge, a long-held belief, a damaging relationship, or a job that is sucking our souls? Another ACIM quote that helps explains this, for me, is:
First, they must go through what might be called "a period of undoing." This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced. It seems as if things are being taken away, and it is rarely understood initially that their lack of value is merely being recognized.
(A Course in Miracles, M-4.A.3:1-3)
This is the core, I believe, of the suffering -- this call to recognize, and admit, the lack of value. If that is true that what I am clinging to is "nothing", what does that mean for who I am and how I identify and orient myself in this world? If it is nothing, then have I just been wasting the time and energy I have poured into this feeling or job or relationship? Our ego convinces us that it is better to continue to grip these ideas and feelings and actions than face the implications that they are of no value, at least not any longer, and perhaps have not been of value for some time.
For me, this is a great lesson that I am being invited to learn and practice over and over. I very often -- like, often -- hold onto my feelings of suffering, regret, indignation, anger, and injustice in a steely grip, not even clear what I would lose if I gave them up, but still not willing to let them go. And then occasionally, through some miracle, or prayer, or divine intervention, that grip softens. And those times that I am able to be free of a situation or story and let go of the emotions, I feel a wash of relief and joy and peace, and look back on that situation and know, with absolute certainly, that it was no longer of any value to me.
But what of the bigger things that impact us such as a narcissistic parent who shaped our childhood, a partner who betrays us, or even a manager or employee that makes daily work life a living hell? Often it feels like if we give up this anger, if we forgive, then we are excusing or accepting the behaviour or actions of the other person. Our ego tells us that this isn't right to let them off the hook, and our righteous indignation, and our pain, continues.
So how can we release these stories, beliefs and emotions without it feeling like we are giving something up? Well, as slowly as you like and are able. Time is here in this reality as a gentle teaching tool; we are able to recognize and release what is of no value "over time." And if the recognition and release is as slow as an archaeologist brushing off the thinnest layer of silt to reach the treasure, that is all that needs to be done. Layer by layer, recognition by recognition, understanding by understanding, the core of love will be revealed. And another miracle is that this capacity of recognizing the lack of value becomes stronger over time and with each tiny shift in awareness. At some point, we are able to stare at our most once-prized possessions, our most sacred, long-held false beliefs, and hand them to God in exchange for love and peace and grace.
These are some of the practices that have helped me to reveal the true worthlessness of what I am holding onto:
For 10 seconds, can I imagine that the painful situation was done for me, instead of to me? What would that mean if there was love and learning behind the pain or fear?
Can I find even one past painful situation where I can imagine and believe that the person who hurt me was doing the best they could given their circumstances? Is there room for compassion?
Can I contemplate, for just a moment, that my forgiveness is in service to myself, for my healing and salvation, and is not for the person who receives the forgiveness?
As you are contemplating this lesson, please remember these two truths; the world is always conspiring for your success and well-being; and your work, every single time you say "yes" to loosening the grip on that which isn't serving you, heals the world, and for this you have my deepest love and gratitude.
* All names of God are welcome here -- Universe, Source, Sophia, Allah, Inner Being, and on and on. And certainly all genders of God, including no gender, are also most welcome.