[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Today I am working with Lesson 126, “All that I give is given to myself.” I love this lesson, even though I don’t understand it. Actually, in saying that, I am only agreeing with the lesson itself. Its whole assumption is that if we really understood that giving is receiving, we would be these constant fountains of giving. It would just flow from us like a perpetual waterfall. Since that is not the case, we must not really understand that “All that I give is given to myself.”
Indeed, the lesson says that we need the Holy Spirit’s help before we can truly understand this. This idea (“All that I give is given to myself”) is so ego-transcending that we need help from a Mind that is bigger than our ego-bound mind in order to understand it. We need an infusion from a larger space than our mind’s little eight-by-eight cell.
The lesson asks us to first let go of our false beliefs about giving. When I look within and ask for help in identifying my main belief about giving, the thing that immediately pops into mind is that giving equals expenditure of energy. It is energy going out. Period. In other words, it is draining. Now, I don’t believe that intellectually; I know full well what the Course teaches. But I certainly believe that practically. And that practical belief is incredibly deep-seated. It is like a mountain I am sitting on top of. It is seemingly immovable. Don’t get me wrong. I do give. I feel like I am giving much of each day. But there is usually a silent reluctance associated with it: “Energy is going out. Energy is going out. I wish I didn’t have to expend it.”
But then, as I got in touch with this belief, another belief came to mind. It is the belief that I am constantly racking up guilt by not being giving enough. It is really a combination of not being loving enough and not being giving enough; not expressing love through giving. What I realized, with a slight shock, is that this guilt is a constant undertow. It is there all the time. It attends every interaction, however minor. And I mean every interaction. I’m always thinking, “I should be loving more; I should be giving more.”
It reminded me of what I might call “procrastination anxiety.” I am a tremendous procrastinator. I associate freedom with putting things off. To the extent I’ve curbed this, it’s because I realized that while I was thinking procrastination equals freedom, I wasn’t noticing the anxiety that was produced by my procrastination, that sense of a burden hanging over my head, dogging my steps, and, frankly, telling me that I’m guilty for putting it off. Realizing that experiential cost of procrastination has helped me, to some degree, to get past this tendency of mine (though not to a degree that those who depend on me would like!).
I feel this realization that not giving equals guilt has a similar potential. Do I want to live with this constant sense that I am failing the people around me by not being giving enough? Do I really want to carry that hundred-pound rock around on my shoulders?
So in doing this lesson, I am conscious that it holds the promise of a whole new kind of life. Right now I am stuck between “giving is draining” and “not giving is guilt.” What a terrible dilemma. I live between its two horns. But what if there was a total and perfect resolution that was possible? What if the real pair is “giving is receiving” and “not giving is guilt”? Then the dilemma is gone. And with the dilemma gone, I would step over into a different mode of being.
But I will clearly need help in this. So in my practice periods, I am trying to open up to an infusion from that larger Mind, because this tiny mind can’t seem to truly break the deep association of giving equals draining. And that’s just what the lesson says: “You will need help to make this meaningful, because it is so alien to the thoughts to which you are accustomed. But the Help you need is there.”