Chapter 23: Death, Loss and Pain (and discussion of ACIM Lessons 291-300)
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 23 of my book Awakening To One Love where I discuss the topic of death, loss and pain with the Holy Spirit; asking for a way we can all deal with the pain of these inevitable experiences while here on earth. Our discussion begins at lesson 298 from A Course In Miracles and moves on to death after that. (My words are denoted as "ME" and the Holy Spirit's words as "HS.")
298. I love You, Father, and I love Your Son.
HS: You cannot see what lies behind the body. Because of this, you can hardly be blamed for forgetting your love for one another; for failing at times to treat each other with kindness. Accept instead only what God has established as yours; your holy Sonship in Him. You must learn to walk through this world of illusion, knowing that eternal holiness abides in each of you.
299. Eternal holiness abides in me.
HS: The body fills your senses and it can be difficult to see yourself as anything else. But God has not forgotten the eternal holiness abiding in you. His senses are not clouded. He sees only the truth in you. Your holiness cannot be undone. God Wills that you remember the holiness He created you as. Once you remember this, then only an instant longer will this world endure for you.
300. Only an instant does this world endure.
HS: This statement brings great sadness to those who hold tightly to the ego, hoping to find happiness in this world. For those who are seeking release from pain, they are words of a glad release; the happy promise of eternal joy. There is nothing here in the world that you can take with you into the Kingdom of Heaven, because none of it is real. Only the Eternal Holiness abiding within you is real, and this alone is welcomed into His Kingdom. The holy instant you accept this truth, the world as you know it will cease to endure and you will move beyond it to eternity.
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ME: When You talk about us moving beyond this world to eternity, are You talking about our physical death?
HS: No. I am talking about your true Life in Spirit. I am talking about a shift in your perception; a shift in awareness. It is a shift from seeing this world; the world you made in opposition to Me; to seeing My world. The world I created is the only real world there is. The world you currently see was born of sacrifice. You have sacrificed your Perfect Vision of Oneness in order to experience this illusion of separation. Please insert-
ME: I got it, I got it. Intuitive quote fetching person at Your service.
The following quotations are from: ACIM T. Chapter 26 I. The "Sacrifice" of Oneness
"The world you see is based on "sacrifice" of oneness. It is a picture of complete disunity and total lack of joining. Around each entity is built a wall so seeming solid that it looks as if what is inside can never reach without, and what is out can never reach and join with what is locked away within the wall. Each part must sacrifice the other part, to keep itself complete. For if they joined each one would lose its own identity, and by their separation are their selves maintained." (2.1-5)
"The body is a loss, and can be made to sacrifice. And while you see your brother as a body, apart from you and separate in his cell, you are demanding sacrifice of him and you." (4.1-2)
"You can lose sight of oneness, but can not make sacrifice of its reality. Nor can you lose what you would sacrifice, nor keep the Holy Spirit from His task of showing you that it has not been lost." (6.1-2)
ME: Okay, so we "sacrificed" our vision of Oneness in order to experience being in separate bodies, but in reality, we are One, whether we see bodies or not.
ME: But the body can be lost, and even though we aren't supposed to see one another as a body, it still hurts like hell when a loved one is lost. So will You please explain to me how we're supposed to deal with the emotional pain of death in light of our Oneness?
HS: I would love to.
ME: And You know what else hurts? The ending of a relationship. Sometimes that can hurt just as much as death, so I'd like to know how we should deal with that as well. I mean, losing someone is losing someone, right?
HS: Most certainly.
ME: And don't just say that bodies aren't real so we should just forgive them and let go of the pain. It's not that simple to do during the throws of agony. That thought isn't really helpful when we first experience the death or loss of someone, if You know what I mean?
HS: I promise I will not just tell you to forgive the body and let it go.
ME: Good. Alright then. Go ahead, I'm listening.
HS: First, I will address your question about how to deal with the pain of losing a loved one to death of the body. I will explain this through a brief exercise.
ME: Alright. That sounds fun.
HS: I want you to stop and take a moment to touch your own arm. It feels as though it is the real you, does it not?
ME: Yes, my skin feels like it's part of me.
HS: Now imagine yourself touching someone else's body with yours; someone you love very much. Imagine holding them in a deep, tender, loving embrace. Perhaps you caress their face, and give their cheek a gentle kiss. Now simply rest your forehead against theirs.
ME: Got it. I'm imagining that I'm holding and loving my two children. I'm really enjoying this exercise so far by the way.
HS: Good. Now, you feel such love for them, and they are dear to you. Under these circumstances, you feel supremely close to them, do you not?
ME: Yes, I feel very close to them like this.
HS: Now. I'm going to tell you something very important. Pay close attention.
ME: I'm totally listening here. I'm literally hanging off the edge of my seat. I'm not even breathing.
HS: This tender embrace is as far apart as you will ever be from those whom you hold dear. This is as far away from one another as you can possibly get. Nothing separates you more than the flesh. Physical bodies are a very real barrier to you.
ME: What? But if one of my children were to die, they would suddenly feel extremely far away from me. I don't ever want that.
HS: I tell you this; though you would miss their face, their touch, and the sound of their voice, you are never as far apart as you are now while you think you are in bodies. Nothing is closer than Oneness in My Spirit, and nothing separates you more than this dream of being in a body. As you are now, you are as far away from your loved ones as you will ever be. Once one of you departs from the physical, the rejoining process begins. You cannot see them, but they are there, waiting for your imminent return, knowing your seeming separation is but an instant in eternity. Upon your happy return, you will be together forever. You will never feel this much space between you again.
ME: At least not until we decide to come back here into bodies and forget everything again.
HS: Who says you have to return? It is My goal to help you to cease making the choice of separation to begin with.
ME: Oh yeah. I'd love to stop doing that.
HS: You never knew you had a choice until now.
ME: Right. And I want to point something out to You now; You did actually tell me the body isn't real, and we should forgive it. You just used a roundabout way to do it.
HS: I did not go back on my word. I gave you no trifle thing here. The pain of loss will heal of its own accord when the body is properly perceived.
ME: I believe You. Yes, You gave me new perspective beautifully, and I thank You. It's comforting to know that this is as far away as I will ever be from those I love.
HS: You are only dreaming of death. It is not a real experience. You never leave anyone, and no one ever leaves you.
The following quotations are from: ACIM M. Chapter 27. WHAT IS DEATH?
"Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end?" (1.1-2)
"In this perception of the universe as God created it, it would be impossible to think of Him as loving. For who has decreed that all things pass away, ending in dust and disappointment and despair, can but be feared." (2.1-2)
"Death is the symbol of the fear of God." (3.1)
"The "reality" of death is firmly rooted int he belief that God's Son is a body. And if God created bodies, death would indeed be real. But God would not be loving." (5.1-3)
"Without the idea of death there is no world. All dreams will end with this one. This is salvations's final goal; the end of all Illusions." (6.3-5)
"Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated thus: Accept no compromise in which death plays a part. Do not believe in cruelty, nor let attack conceal the truth from you. What seems to die has but been misperceived and carried to illusion. Now it becomes your task to let the illusion be carried to the truth. Be steadfast but in this; be not deceived by the "reality" of any changing form. Truth neither moves nor wavers nor sinks down to death and dissolution. And what is the end of death? Nothing but this; the realization that the Son of God is guiltless now and forever. Nothing but this. But do not let yourself forget it is not less than this." (7.1-10)
HS: The body is an illusion of changing form and nothing more. It is not real; it is not you. The death of it is nothing, because the body is indeed truly nothing. Though the loss of it grieves you, understand no one has gone anywhere except to exit the dream they were a body. Simultaneously rejoice in their freedom from hell.
ME: Awhile back, I had a dream about loosing all my loved ones. I went out looking for them, thinking everyone had abandoned me. After I grew tired of looking for them, I decided to return home. Once I got back, I found they'd all been at home waiting for me the whole time. It turned out that I was actually the one who'd left them.
HS: Each one of you is truly a prodigal son. It is the truth that you have actually left them. Heaven is your true Home, and this dream is the place you have journeyed to. Yet no one has really gone anywhere. No one has been lost or stolen from you. You are all still together, no matter what your external circumstances appear to look like. All you need do is follow My gentle path of ease and light to return to them. Upon your return, you will find that your loved ones have been waiting for you this entire time. Here, when there is a death, you think the person has left you, but you have the process backwards. Death of the body is actually the beginning of the return journey Home to Me. And I walk with you every step of the way. Do not fear this transition.
The following quotations are from: ACIM T. Chapter 18 III. Light in the Dream
"If you knew Who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible. You do not know because the journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it." (3.2-3)
"When you retreat to the illusion your fear increases, for there is little doubt that what you think it means is fearful. Yet what is that to us who travel surely and very swiftly away from fear?" (3.8-9)
"You do not understand what you accepted, but remember that your understanding is not necessary. All that was necessary was merely the wish to understand. That wish was the desire to be holy. The Will of God is granted you. For you desire the only thing you ever had, or ever were." (4.11-15)
"Your desire is now in complete accord with all the power of the Holy Spirit's Will." (5.3)
"I hold your hand as surely as you agreed to take your brother's. You will not separate, for I stand with you and walk with you in your advance to truth. And where we go we carry God with us." (5.5-7)
"Let not time worry you, for all the fear that you and your brother experience is really past. Time has been readjusted to help us do, together, what your separate pasts would hinder." (7.5-6)
"You and your brother are coming home together, after a long and meaningless journey that you undertook apart, and that lead nowhere. You have found your brother, and you will light each other's way." (8.5-6)
ME: That all sounds very nice, but while we're still stuck here, it sucks to feel left behind. Is it alright to grieve for those we've lost? I mean, You don't expect us to be happy about them returning Home, do You?
HS: Of course not. Grieving is a natural part of the healing process. You cannot accept what you do not acknowledge. Accept and acknowledge your losses in the way that's most comfortable for you, for the length of time you need. Just know, that one day you will rejoice in your holy Union once again. A Union more complete and loving than you have words on earth to describe. All suffering will be forgotten as the separation of the body is forgotten.
ACIM Preface xii.
"Only minds can really join, and whom God has joined no man can put asunder. It is, however, only at the level of Christ Mind that true union is possible, and has, in fact, never been lost."
ME: I love the idea of being One with everyone and that we never truly separate. Believing this takes some of the sting out of death I guess. Can You explain to me now how we should deal with the ending of relationships? It's not quite the same as death, but it can feel just as painful.
HS: Again, all you need is the proper perspective of what a body is for in a relationship in order to bring healing.