Paradise gained, lost, regained. What now?
My recent experience of heaven on earth, turned into something like hell, then heaven again. What's next?
Around the end of last year, life had become unbearable.
It was not my worst time ever. It had been that bad many times before. But, as Anthony de Mello says, I had finally gotten tired of my suffering.
It’s a great thing to have suffered. Only then can you get sick of it.
I was finally completely sick of it.
In the past, when I’d had unhappy episodes, I’d do just enough to pull myself through, just enough to tell myself I’d done something. As I said in this post:
I am willing to do whatever it takes to do as little as possible to seem to have worked hard to appear to have achieved whatever I can manage to get away with. And you can count on that!
Sometimes I was happy for a while.
Now I said: “no more.”
I would ask for help.
Asking for help
I’ve asked for help before. I’ve asked for just enough to get me past the point that I could not get past and back to doing my minimal best.
As I said in this post:
Help? Of course, I’ll ask for help. I’ll ask for enough help to make it clear that I’m serious enough about change to ask for help. That should be enough.
Now it wasn’t. Now I did more.
I called up my doctor, who put me on anti-depressants.
I called up Mitchell, the IFS therapist I had seen when things had been out of control, and scheduled weekly sessions.
I talked to Bobbi and asked for her help—not when things were desperate—but ongoing. Of course, she said yes.
I called up my sister and started doing A Course in Miracles.
I read books.
I made my daily meditation practice with David more consistent. Then my brother joined our practice, and we rarely missed a day.
I listened to a half-hour of healing music with Bobbi before we went to sleep in each other’s arms.
I did more.
The Course in Miracles recommends forgiveness, and I have long believed in the power of forgiveness. I’ve written about it here, and here, and here, and here, and other places, I am sure.
So I did a lot of forgiving and a lot of asking for forgiveness.
I forgave myself.
I asked for forgiveness.
I forgave everyone who came to mind.
Again and again.
(Forgiving people who have not asked for forgiveness seems egotistical, so I forgave people silently—unless they asked for forgiveness. Then I forgave aloud. If I have not told you I forgive you, be sure that you’re covered.)
Normal life was filled with gratitude and love and forgiveness and hope and joy and equanimity.
My normal past state was something like neutrality with a good dose of happiness and occasional misery. Now I felt equanimity. Equanimity sounds like neutrality but experiencing equanimity was nothing like experiencing neutrality.
Neutrality is pain-free but and calm. Equanimity is quietly joyful. And equanimity includes gratitude and love and forgiveness and hope and faith. It’s not neutral.
Mere neutrality became exceptional. Upsets were even rarer and short-lived. And a little forgiveness made those upsets vanish.
I described myself as living in “a state of grace.” My life was “heaven on earth.”
I’m not shitting. That’s how I felt.
I forgave Adolf Hitler. Little Adolf must have a sweet kid at some time. No one is born the way he turned out. Eventually, he became a monster, but was it his fault? I don’t know. But I didn’t blame him. I forgave him.
I even forgave Donald Trump, FFS.
And everyone else.
The more I forgave, the more I felt forgiven, which the Course said would happen. Maybe it was confirmation bias. I didn’t care.
I had gained paradise.
I lived in that state for months.
To Denver and back
Bobbi and I drove to Denver, and I was in a state of grace. We stayed in Denver, and I was in a state of grace. We drove back in, and I was in a state of grace.
The last two days on the road were particularly memorable.
As we drove, we talked. I remember talking to Bobbi about my transformation from resentment to gratitude. I remember my feeling for Past Me changing from mere gratitude to gratitude and love. I remember filling myself with love for Future Me.
I had recalled the fact that all living things on Earth share a common ancestor—which is true—and so we are distant cousins—which is true. But the fact is not the feeling. I remember looking at the trees in upper New York state and feeling they were family. I felt surrounded by family. Loving family. I loved the trees and felt them loving me back.
Heaven on earth. There I lived.
Then we got home, and I began my descent to hell.
I didn’t know.
I was glad to be home, but I was no longer reliably and effortlessly paradise.
I thought about what had changed.
I’d taken my meds inconsistently.
I’d skipped regular meetings with Mitchell.
I was not consistently meditating.
My sister and I were not consistently making progress on the Course.
In truth, things were not that bad, but I’d tasted heaven, and anything less seemed like hell.
I wanted to recover—or re-create—the state I had been in.
So I went back to doing everything I’d done before, and it didn’t make things better.
It made things worse.
It took a while for me to realize what was different.
When I had decided I was tired of suffering, I had asked for help. My doctor, Mitchell, the meditation group, Bobbi, the Course, my sister. Whoever I thought could help, I asked.
Now, although it seemed that I was back doing the things that had helped me. But it just seemed that way.
In reality, I was doing them differently.
“I fixed things, and I will fix them again by doing what I did before,” said the voice in my head. It was the voice of the ego, speaking in boldface.
When I had asked for help, I had realized that my talents and abilities—my ego—was insufficient. It was the help that led me to paradise. Not the ego.
Ego had not fixed things. (In truth, there was nothing to fix. I just needed to wake up.)
Now ego was demanding credit for what ego had never done.
Ego was claiming it could do again what it had not done in the first place.
The Course In Miracles claims to be an antidote for ego’s toxicity.
I rate the claim as true. At least for me.
Ego says, “Remember, I found the Course in Miracles.” Ego says, “Remember, I did the Course.” Ego says, “What I did before I can do again.”
Ego is full of shit. It never did any of it. I had help. It was the help that made the difference.
As I said here:
Ego always says: “I’ll do it alone.” Ego always says: “I’ll find my own way.” Ego always says: “I’m special.” My ego always said, “I’m smarter than everyone else.”
To the ego, “everyone else” included God.
But the ego is full of shit and always will be.
Resentment is the problem. Separation is the problem. Forgiveness is the solution.
Egos tell us we are right and they are wrong. Egos tell us to resent offenses against us and that our transgressions are justified.
It’s all bullshit.
Paradise was never lost.
The world, full of egos, teaches a thought system. It’s not a bad system. Most people have survived using that system. They’ve done it over the course of centuries. The benefit is survival. The cost is suffering.
The Course teaches a different thought system. Some people have survived using the Course’s thought system. They have also done it over the course of centuries. The benefit is survival in a state of grace. The cost is abandoning the ego.
The conventional view—the one I had when I started writing this essay—was “Paradise gained, lost, regained.”
I reviewed the earlier lessons in the Course—without ego. Or with as little ego as I could manage. I was surprised to realize what I had forgotten. I was pleased to find that my view had changed. My vision had been restored.
The course’s view—the one I have now—is different.
Paradise was never gained, never lost, never regained.
I was always in paradise. Always am. Never left. Never returned.
What happened is this: I woke up and believed I’d gained paradise. I re-entered the dream and believed I’d lost it. I woke up again and finally realized that nothing had ever happened.
Will I enter the dream again?
Will I wake up again? Certainly.
And next time I wake up, I am sure I will know more than I did before.
Thanks for sharing Dad. I love you.
Bravo little brother. I love listening to the new James Twyman a musical interlude and reading from the text. It is awesome. We are doing the course in miracles my little brother. This is a great post. Not that you need to hear it but I’m telling you anyway