Editor’s note: This is the second of a multi-part series on Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.
By Louis Bourgeois
The first “Face of Freedom” that we discussed in part 2 of this series is freedom from the past. We go a little deeper here in what could be called Freedom from the Present, or more simply “Freedom from the World.”
I mentioned briefly the core of the forgiveness process which is a reversal of thinking. We are conditioned to believe that we are lacking and that our fulfillment would come from people, places and things in the world. The basic nature of our relationship with the world is that we see the world as a place for getting our needs met. At the elemental level of physical survival this is true, and even at the level of the ego and the development of our person and personality this is also true.
Our developmental journey goes through distinctive phases. Our childhood and the beginning of our adolescence is tribal in nature. We are shaped by the influences of our family and via school and the media our conditioning takes place. If we are well socialized we find our way to fit in, make friends, perhaps experience our first romance. By the time we are of the age to leave our family and make our way in the world we are conditioned to believe that our future career, marriage and family of our own, and material success is the pathway to personal happiness.
Along the way we experience the ups and downs of life. It appears that the very things we seek for our personal fulfillment and happiness also bring with them an equal share of disappointment. There is a certain stress involved with “keeping up with the Joneses.” We experience unhappiness at times in our work and our personal relationships. We may even experience the anguish of a tragedy, personal or professional. Most of us by the time we are 35 or 40 have encountered some significant setbacks along the way. We may begin to question the conditioning of our culture that promised us certain happiness via our accomplishments.
Some of us are lucky in that a particular tragedy or a build up of pressures causes us to break, and we seek help. We come to believe that there must be another way to live in the world. We find some sort of spiritual guidance and comfort.
My breakdown came at 33, accelerated by the effects of alcohol and drugs. I was institutionalized for a number of months. When it was coming time to be released from my 6-month halfway house program my counselor asked me where I was going to live. I had no idea. I knew that there was no going back to the chaos of my past, my family and old friends. I sensed that I might find some answers at a Whole Health Expo coming to Springfield, Massachusetts, the locations of the halfway house.
The first day of the Expo, I realized that there was a whole world of healing and spirituality in the Amherst area, so I became excited to start my new life there. On the second day of the Expo I listened to a woman give a talk on something called “A Course in Miracles.” I was immediately aware that I needed to go to Amherst and study the course with her.
For the next 25 years, my life became a devotion to the study and practice of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). Here I would learn about the reversal in the way to think about the world and my relationships in the world. I was learning the fundamental steps in the process of forgiveness and the principle of “undoing.” My training was not as much about learning something new as it was about undoing the conditioning of my world. I was learning that the true foundation of my happiness came with the fulfillment of my spiritual function. First, the lessons focused on negation: “The world I see holds nothing that I want” and “I do not understand anything that I see.” Eventually this focus shifts to the shimmering reality: “I am the light of the world.”
In the mature stages of my study with ACIM, I was introduced to a teacher with an odd little laugh. His name was Eckhart Tolle. When I received a copy of The Power of Now I became quickly aware that this was the “cutting edge” of spiritual teaching at the time. Tolle was brilliant with his description of God as “the unmanifested” and how our function was to serve as the conduit through which this energetic principle might manifest in the space-time world. My learning was galvanized as I integrated this new influence. I learned to reframe the very Christian language of ACIM into a more neutral energy language. I learned from Carolyn Myss about the energy body and how this served as the means for our radiant function. This helped me understand better the Biblical phrase: “When thine eye becomes single thy whole body will be filled with light.”
So back to the process of forgiveness. When I saw the world as a place for getting my needs met, my seeking was coming from my sense of lack. By denying my true power and seeking it outside of me I was burdening my world via this projection. I would never find what is was that I was seeking.
It is the paradox of the conditioning of the world; an endless seeking and never finding. When I “awakened” to the true abundance that was available to me — my spiritual inheritance — everything changed. The reversal was complete. The world now existed as a place in which I could extend, express via my gratitude, my creativity, and my enthusiasm. There was endless opportunity every day to give, simply for the sake of giving. And there is a direct relationship between serving this function and my happiness.
This is Freedom from the World and the true meaning of forgiveness. Conscious Dying rests on this principle and its practice and this becomes the foundation for Conscious Living.
Louis Bourgeois lives in Cuenca with his wife and baby. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. He can be contacted at email@example.com