I suppose the clouds of squelched guilt had been gathering for some time in the dark recesses of my scant gray matter. Following a weekend in which I appeared to have remained remarkably right-minded despite distressing developments in the objects of my projection I awoke once more mouthing the words of A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 185: “I want the peace of God.”

“To say these words is nothing,” I read. “But to mean these words is everything.”

I searched my mind, reviewing recent developments in the dream including the apparent suffering and seeming unfair behavior of certain co-stars, reminding myself as the Course often does that it was my dream, after all. That although I believe in the leading role I am playing, I am no more real than the rest of the cast I assembled to prove the ego’s miserable tale of sin, guilt, and fear. That the part of my mind that took the “tiny mad idea” of separation from invulnerable, all-inclusive oneness seriously at the seeming beginning has a strong investment in keeping that story of individual entities vying for scarce emotional and physical resources in a finite world alive. But another part of my mind survived the insane thought completely unscathed. It knew I remained at home in God dreaming of exile, just like everybody else. I could turn away from the ego’s latest sad Indie release this minute by simply wanting the peace of God with all my heart. Well, sort of.

“I want the peace of God.” I repeated the words again in my head, striving to mean them, acutely aware even so that I was really asking to forgive with the help of the memory of wholeness in our mind all the seeming external obstacles I still saw to peace and still forgot I had imagined. The following words bobbed to the surface of the little Magic 8 Ball screen behind my forehead: “Help me make learning to practice true forgiveness in every circumstance my only goal.” I wrote them down on a yellow sticky note and posted it on the wall behind my desk along with a few A Course in Miracles quotes and a photo of a yoga retreat in the mountains I occasionally flee to that helps me remember to, you know; breathe. (Because we all know what happens when we forget to do that.)

Within minutes, I found myself dreaming again, frustrated by the fact that my doctor—apparently out of town–would not return my phone calls about a prescription I needed that had apparently expired. His secretary was less than helpful on the phone, completely unwilling to intervene in my behalf despite the fact that I had known her and her boss for years. After calling the pharmacy again and leaving a message on my doctor’s cell phone, I turned back to my morning project and struggled with it for a couple of hours but the computer database I attempted to interact with had turned—for reasons beyond my comprehension—completely antisocial.

I gazed at my sticky note. I asked for help in seeing these latest hiccups as the same old desire to hold external circumstances responsible for the internal condition of fear and guilt in my mind. Arising from the unconscious belief that I had destroyed perfect, unified Love with my wish to experiment with individuality and could never be accepted back into the infinite loving fold. I turned back to the computer but each time I entered the information required and attempted to submit, it mysteriously vanished. I gazed at the sticky note and decided to walk the dog to clear my head.

Although the sun shone and the temperature had at least inched out of the sub-zero range the streets remained deeply rutted with ice (for reasons that continue to defy the understanding of a transplant from the Northeast; Denver does not believe in plowing anything but main thoroughfares). Bundled in her little parka, Kayleigh, the five-pound wonder dog and I picked our way along the sidewalks; some relatively clear, those of homeowners who failed to shovel extremely treacherous.

Half way down a westward-bound street I noticed a woman walking a large German shepherd approaching a perpendicular street corner from the north. As always acutely aware of my own dog’s size, I crossed diagonally across the street to the opposite street heading south to completely avoid them. About half way down that street I heard a woman’s scream and turned to see the German shepherd bounding in our direction. I scooped Kayleigh up and held her to my chest but the dog was already upright and on us.

Fight or flight! the ego chanted, but the ice had halved my options. I kept turning around, trying to keep my back to the dog even as it continued to lunge for Kayleigh, or me, or both. And I screamed at the woman, also slow to approach because of the ice. “Control your dog!” I struggled to keep my balance as the canine’s leash wrapped around my ankles.

She finally got hold of the leash and was able to pull the dog off me. I think she said she was sorry; I honestly don’t remember. I wish I could say I wanted the peace of God. I wish I could say I defended myself in form but held her harmless in my mind. But I did not. And who in a body could blame me, I reasoned? High on adrenaline, informed by the ego, and intoxicated by the notion of victimization, I continued to yell at her. “Your dog could have killed my dog!” I shouted, in parting, unable to keep my death-grip on the obvious to myself.

Kayleigh continued to tremble in my arms as I did our Zombie-like ice walk away. At one point I peered around and spied the woman simply standing in the same spot beside her vicious dog as if frozen, reigniting my anger. I can’t remember if the words “Go away!” came out of my mouth or merely boomed in my head. It doesn’t really matter. A couple blocks later my heartbeat returned to normal and I set Kayleigh down, overwhelmed with regret. What kind of an A Course in Miracles student let alone teacher was I? I had awakened wanting the peace of God, after all, and just look what a mess I’d made of it all. We made it home without further incident, still judging myself but at least asking for help to review with our inner Jesus what had just appeared to happen in my forgiveness classroom.

“No one can mean these words and not be healed He cannot play with dreams, nor think he is himself a dream. He cannot make a hell and think it real. He wants the peace of God and it is given him. For that is all he wants and that is all he will receive. Many have said these words. But few indeed have meant them. You have but to look upon the world you see around you to be sure how very few they are.”

The trouble is however much I mean these words, my mind is still split. A part of me wants the peace of God and a part of me wants to prove my relative innocence compared with a stranger whose failure to control her dog may (or may not) have actually jeopardized me and my dog. The rapidity with which I choose the ego’s interpretation of illusions when the script involves my body or the body of a loved one is quite literally mind-boggling. I am back in the dream in a nano-second, swinging at windmills Don Quixote-like.

But the decision maker in my split mind does not require a dramatic ambush by a potentially threatening predator to find myself back in the dream and siding with the ego again. Although it wants the peace of God, it also wants my doctor to call me back and give me the damn prescription already. It wants the peace of God but it wants the hosts of this database to fix the freaking problem even though there is really only one problem. And it doesn’t stop there.

I want the peace of God, but I also want a Vente ¾ decaf light room Americano or a Girl Scout cookie (Tagalongs being my current favorite) or a See’s dark chocolate Bordeaux candy from the left over Valentine’s stash. I want the peace of God and money back on my tax returns and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc at the end of a long day. I want the peace of God and the return of warm weather and compliant family members and the pain-free joints and muscles of a 20-something.

Instead I have only this recognition of a denied part of me that just rejoiced in retaliating against a person who I find it hard to believe once my cortisol levels have returned to normal actually decided to let her dog have at me. If I had really wanted the peace of God, I could have defended myself without anger or the need to exact revenge on the perpetrator of an accidental act. But my mind is split, and until it is healed completely I will constantly seek to find an object of projection for the concealed guilt I would rather die than own.

Fortunately, Jesus knows we have a split mind. He in no way expects us to want the peace of God; he knows that’s impossible. Instead he wants us to look at just how tempting we find it to throw the peace of God away. To look with him at just how irresistible projection can seem. How much we want to blame others for our unconscious inner guilt and fear. How invested we are in the very idea of others that at least preserves the idea of me.

And so I sit at my desk once more gazing at my sticky note and recommitting to my real goal: To learn and practice true forgiveness in every circumstance. I do that by seeing how much I don’t want to do that. Humbled by the intensity of my own resistance I again turn to Jesus/my right mind for help in forgiving myself. Help in looking at the unreal, seeing its purpose, and accepting its correction, the complete certainty that I am not at odds with the objects of my projection the ego would like me to use to block my awareness of the one Love we remain.

“What do you ask for in your heart? Forget the words you use in making your requests. Consider but what you believe will comfort you, and bring you happiness. But be you not dismayed by lingering illusions, for their form is not what matters now. Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others. They are one. And being one, one question should be asked of all of them, “Is this what I would have, in place of Heaven and the peace of God?”

If I make learning and practicing true forgiveness in every circumstance my goal I am learning I feel better when I look with my inner teacher on all I believe is out to get me, change my mind about its origin and purpose, and remember what I truly want. Each time I do, the fissure in my mind mends a little more, until I am healed of the idea of a split mind for good.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Dugan is an ACIM student, teacher, and author blogging about practicing forgiveness ACIM-style in Denver, Colorado and posting weekly at www.foraysinforgiveness.com. She appears in the documentary A Course in Miracles: The Movie along with renowned Course scholar and teacher Kenneth Wapnick, PhD, best-selling Course author Gary Renard, and other ACIM teachers and authors. A collection of her personal forgiveness essays, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, is now available at http://www.amazon.com/Extraordinary-Ordinary-Forgiveness-Susan-Dugan/dp/...