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This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
April 1994, Volume 1 Nr 8, Issue 8

Releasing Our Fears

Attitudinal healing is a concept that has been discussed in these pages before. The February 1994 issue discussed the theory. After reviewing the principles, I would like to devote this issue to the practice.

Attitudinal Healing may be defined as "the process of releasing our fears so that we can experience our natural state which is to be loving and peaceful. As we choose to let go of the past and to live in the moment, we forgive ourselves and others, we feel our connection with others, and we feel loved. The healed mind trusts that the world is governed by a power in it but not of it; that power is love, the most important healing power in the world. And that power will guide us to the extent we trust it and remember to call upon it."

Another useful definition is "Attitudinal Healing is based on the belief that it is not people or conditions outside ourselves that cause us to be upset. We are not victims of the world we see. Rather, what causes us conflict and distress is our own thoughts and attitudes about people and events. Further, we are not only responsible for our own thoughts, we are responsible for the feelings we experience, and through exploring these feelings we can eventually heal them."

Jampolsky and Cirincione credit A Course in Miracles with opening their ability to develop a common workable language for and profoundly effective practical applications of Attitudinal Healing. The concepts are not new and have been discussed and practiced in many venues through many ages. They are found in the core of numerous philosophical, ethical, psychological and religious traditions, notably Mahayana Buddhism, Christian Mysticism, cognitive therapy. These are nothing new. As you read this list of principles of Attitudinal Healing, expect a recognition, an "of course, we know that", an internal, intuitive knowing that lies deeper than any ego-voiced defensive reaction you may have.

The Principles of Attitudinal Healing

The essence of our being is love.
Health is inner peace. Healing is letting go of fear.
Giving and receiving are the same.
We can let go of the past and of the future.
Now is the only time there is and each instant is for giving.
We can learn to love ourselves, and others by forgiving
     rather than judging.
We can become love finders rather than fault finders.
We can choose and direct ourselves to be peaceful inside
     regardless of what is happening outside.
We are students and teachers to each other.
We can focus on the whole of life rather than the fragments.
Since love is eternal, death need not be viewed as fearful.
We can always perceive others as either extending love or
     giving a call for help.

These are straightforward statements. If accepted as valid (or as worth testing for personal validity), they need little or no explanation to put into practice. One need not read A Course in Miracles. I have not read all of it. Jozef has read it twice. I sometimes think it could use editing. Since Helen Schucman, the person who was inspired to get all those words on paper, was just that - inspired -- she felt she was not the author and so had no authority to edit the manuscript. I have a great love and respect for the works that people have called sacred scriptures throughout written history. Much of this work has survived because it reflects human heart learning. But, the finest lessons are those contained in the actions and attitudes of the mundane and marvelous world. The impulse to learn (which can poetically be thought of as to lean and to yearn, to learn) is natural. It gives rise to acts of kindness, of literature, of living, that are themselves sacred scripture.

I believe that too often the political, fear-based manipulations of traditional scriptures have led to separation rather than reconciliation, use of scripture for power-over rather than partnership. Such abuses have occurred in the major religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, and in newer "isms" such as Jeffersonian Democracy, communism, capitalism, feminism. Note the Councils of Nicea of 325 and 1325; the hierarchical, feudal and undemocratic functions of many Buddhist temples and lineages; the dehumanization and even demonization of women in many Muslim cultures; the prevalence of torture in some earlier Native American societies; the Inquisition; and the list goes on and on. Most readers could contribute to this sad list.

Practice

So, one need not be familiar with A Course in Miracles, or even know the words "attitudinal healing" to practice it. Many people already do. It is, after all, our natural legacy, this impulse toward love and forgiveness.

This path is one among many. A Course in Miracles states that it, the curriculum, is required. The teaching of forgiveness comes in many forms. There are many textbooks. For the sake of discussion, we use a consensual language to intellectually transmit the ideas of Attitudinal Healing. But, transcending language is the practice itself. When you encounter such healing, any words and no words suffice. The proof is in the pudding.

Jampolsky and Cirincione are good editors, and have the authority of authentic practice. Their books on Attitudinal Healing are full of examples and anecdotes. This is the great human means of transmitting wisdom -- storytelling.

The point of practice is just that -- practice. It is action, not analysis, that is called for. Introspection is important, but often overrated. Many of our dearest insights occur when we are absorbed in something other than ourselves.

Service Ethics

Service is an important tenet of Attitudinal Healing. To get out of one's head, out of one's personal, precious business. To give is to give thanks. To give is to receive. "All that I give is given to myself." Service means giving of yourself. Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity as a literacy tutor. Tell stories to family and neighbors. Deliver meals on wheels. Clean debris off the roadside. Be available to a friend. Be a conscious parent, a caring professional, etc.

Service ethics must be nurtured in our students, our families, ourselves. This does not mean service out of guilt, but out of joy. Not out of superiority and condescension, but out of humility. Do not judge those you serve, nor anyone else, including yourself. If your goal is inner peace, grudges (where is that from? Grumpy judges?) have no place.

Reminders

Now, if you've been touched by what you're reading, if it rings a bell, and you try it, and it works, then what? It's exciting, but you've been excited before, and may be a little wary of that frustrated idealist in you - that idealist has been disappointed before. How does one maintain practice?

Be gentle with yourself. Duncan Ryukin Williams, Soto Zen Novice priest and Student of Religion at Harvard states, "First the principle in practice is: if we fall down seven times, we must get up eight times.". We are usually much harsher judges of ourselves than others. Be gentle in your practice - when you "catch" yourself repeating fearful old patterns, mindlessly replaying a variation on the same old hurt child, don't hurt yourself more by berating yourself. Befriend yourself again and again. Befriend the world again and again.

In our family, we have many reminders in daily life, since practice is how one lives in the world. It is wonderful to be inspired (which means to have new breath breathed into you) by a lecture or a book or a thunderstorm. Now, take that inspiration and remember all breath is new breath. Each day is a new chance to practice love.

Use mnemonics, reminders, rituals. Jozef and I have recited together for almost four years the same affirmations each day. Some are direct from famous Unitarian Universalist scholar Harry Emerson Fosdick. Some are those I rewrote from Ken Keyes, Jr. In the evening we use a set which we wrote together in a classical format. Some selections:

  • I welcome the opportunity (even if painful) that each moment offers me to become aware of what I must reprogram to be free from automatic reactive patterns.
  • I act freely and effectively when I'm centered and loving. I avoid acting when upset. Centering and remembering and accepting are good space for acting.
  • I'm calming the restless scanning of my mind.
  • I am perceiving everyone as a awakening, emerging soul who is here to claim the birthright to fuller consciousness, unconditional love and oneness. We are all fellow travelers.
  • I enjoy the company of our children and am their grateful servant.
  • I make everyday a honeymoon.
  • I gladly take risks to share my feelings with you.
  • I love you dearly.
  • I have everything I need to be happy.
  • For the good of all and according to free will.

Compose for and find words that move you, that reflect love and forgiveness. Repeating the same words each day can be very powerful. The concepts can sink deep and resonate in your heart. Saying them aloud, and with another person or people is a public affirmation. Saying them soundlessly or in private is a personal vow to your Inner Voice.

There is a danger that such repetition will result in careless, hollow, mindlessness; parroting rote passages that have become meaningless because we no longer attend our own recitation. Guard against this.

Legacy

Attitudinal Healing is awareness. It is our gift and legacy to able to pay attention. A very young child spends its waking hours paying attention, existing within the present moment. Later, we learn to spend most of our time dwelling in the future or the past. That is an illusion of course, since one can only act, think and live in the present.

As an adult, one has the gift of independence, of experience. Don’t use your knowledge of linear time, your memories of past experiences and your projections into the future, to cloud your awareness of the eternal now moment. Rather, use such knowledge. Study your previous beliefs and patterns in your practice. Has blaming others made you feel calm and whole, or just energized with an ego-rush, a fleeting and grungy false satisfaction? Has blaming yourself made you feel strong and wise, or only justified your ego-sense of futility and guilt?

The story is told of when the Buddha walked through a village. A young man approached, berating the master. "You have no right to teach! What makes you think you know so much? You’re a fake!" He planted his feet in the Buddha’s path and glared at him, throwing out insults and challenges.

The Buddha remained calm and asked the young man, "If you offer a gift to someone and the person doesn’t take it, to whom does the gift belong?"

"To me, of course, I bought it", the young man replied, suspicious at this odd question.

"Yes", said the Buddha, smiling. ""The gift would still be yours. It is the same with your anger.

If you become angry with me and I don’t get insulted, the anger is still yours. You become unhappy and I am unhurt." As A Course in Miracles states: "All that I give is given to myself."

If you project fear in the form of anger, jealousy, bigotry, then you receive fear. If you project love, you receive love.

In this story, the Buddha goes on to explain exactly these concepts. The young man is inspired to practice the teaching which so touched his heart.

Projection is Perception

Projection is perception. As comedian Flip Wilson’s anima character, "Geraldine" said, "What you see is what you get." As the Buddha said in the Dhammapada:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
We our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With one thought we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

Most of us have been raised to believe in scarcity, the notion that there’s never enough to go around. Advertising depends on belief in scarcity, and doesn’t just pedal concrete products, but also sells abstract lures those products are hooked to. They make false appeals to the real desire for love. The law of scarcity is: to give is to lose.

To give is to receive. This is a law based upon abundance. Giving does not mean depleting a limited supply. As you give love in any form, it increases within you. Gifts of love are not given away and gone. They are shared and expanded.

Gratitude

Be grateful. Everything that happens to you is really a gift. You either experience love and happiness or the beginning of a fearful emotion which gives you a chance to learn, to forgive, to love.

The Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘Thank you’, then that will suffice." Your life can be a prayer of gratitude. "Love is the way I walk in gratitude" as Jerry Jampolsky writes.

Attitudinal healing is a gift you can give to yourself and extend to everyone.

Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair; hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that
I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and It is in dying that
     we are born to eternal life.

Saint Francis of Assisi

1994 JeanneE  Hand-Boniakowski

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