Rosebuds, dinghies, and chronic liars

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

I have just come out of a very powerful teacher-pupil meeting that left both my pupil and me almost speechless. I’d like to share with you the ideas and insights as they flowed during our time together. I’m not sure that I can convey in these words the immensity of what transpired, but here goes anyway!

The general issue we were working on was Paula’s* self-hatred, something she has been aware of for years, but which seems to have manifested itself more viciously (primarily through insomnia and anxiety) since she has been working with me in a teacher-pupil relationship. In a recent session she realized that the severe anxiety she feels when she wakes up in the middle of the night is because she hates herself so much that she’s can’t stand to be with herself. This morning we came to a deeper understanding, which we think holds the way out of the self-hatred that has been consuming her.

Paula started out by saying how helpful she found Allen Watson’s comments (in the Workbook Companion) about Review Lesson 145, especially this:

There is within me and within us all, a vast space of kindness, an enormity of heart that embraces everything in love…. Within me, too, is a fearful child, awash in pain, believing it has eternally damaged the universe. [Therefore, as Paula said, “this child (myself) must be punished forever and eternally hated.”] Let me turn with love to that hurt part of myself and open my arms in comfort and gentle loving-kindness…. Let me not shut myself out of my own heart any longer. Let me take myself in, in warmth and gentle welcome.

Connecting Allen’s commentary with her insomnia, Paula realized that, “I have to turn with love to that hurt part of myself and open my arms to her. As long as I continue to hate myself, I will need to spend lots of time alone and awake until I get this teaching!” **

Hmm… I just made another connection between Allen’s comments and something Paula mentioned in last evening’s Text Reading Program class. She said that, as she read “The Fear of Redemption,” the one statement that really struck a chord in her was: “Love cannot enter where it is not welcome” (T-13.III.5:4).

As we talked about these ideas, the image of a rosebud came up and we and had a whole string of thoughts around this image:

Paula said that she saw her heart like a rosebud, tightly closed, resisting love.

A bud starts out closed, and it must yield to 1) the natural impulse for growth within, and 2) the irresistible draw of the light, before it can open to being the rose it’s meant to be.

Paula recognized how much energy it takes to keep on hating herself and resist both that inner impulse and the outer pull. We imagined the enormous amount of energy it would take for that rosebud to resist opening up and blossoming. It resists the inner impulse, as well as the light that is drawing it to open and the nourishment that is preparing it to open. So it sits there tightly closed, holding onto itself, using up all its energy to do that instead of opening up to its real self and sharing that self. If the bud really works at it, it will never open up at all, but just wither away.

When you look at the buds on a rose bush, all you seem to see are the individual buds. Then when they open up, you no longer see the separate buds but the whole rose bush, a profusion of beauty, colour, and perfume. The roses seem to form a whole, each one there to share its beauty with us, to nourish the bees that come to it. Then when they can no longer fill that function, when they’ve done all they can, they lose their petals and die. It’s the same with us. Paula saw that her sense of aloneness and separateness, as well as her self-hatred, would vanish if she opened her heart to both receiving the love that would nourish and sustain her and to giving that love to others. Neither would happen as long as she kept her heart closed.

Then came the clincher as we realized that hating herself is just a game of make believe that Paula is playing. It’s a lie! Just as she doesn’t let herself blossom, she holds on tightly to the self-hatred that would vanish if she accepted that she really does love herself and if she let go of the lie she professes to believe.

Last evening in the TRP class, we had talked about how hidden under the ego’s dark cornerstone is our anger and hatred and under that is the loving mind that thinks it is so terribly hateful and feels tremendously guilty. Therefore this child must be punished forever and needs to be eternally hated.Then, “still deeper than the ego’s dark foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you” (T-13.III.2:8). It seems as if we’re afraid to look at that dark layer of hatred and anger, but under that fear is the fear of looking at the loving mind that made this whole thing up––and underneath that fear is our real fear, the fear of looking at that intense and burning love, because we’re afraid we will be lost in it and consumed by it. What would happen to us then!

So, we make up this whole pretence of self-hatred to keep us away from love, to keep our hearts closed to love because we’re afraid that it will annihilate us. We’re chronic liars, continuously telling ourselves lies to keep love out. But deep down inside we don’t really believe the lies. Yet look at the tremendous energy we use to keep the lies going. It’s a very clever ruse to keep us from using our energy for the purpose of loving and working miracles. But what if all of this is just one big lie? What then? Why would we keep it going?

Paula said that the readings from last evening’s class gave her the sense that if she let go of the lie, of her self-hatred, of the past, she would be adrift. She wouldn’t know what to do, where to go, or what she was. “It’s as if I’ve been lugging around a heavy trunk for years and years and have no idea what would happen if I just got rid of it, because all of my focus has been on lugging that trunk of self-hatred around like a security blanket.”

I jumped on that “adrift” comment and said that she wouldn’t be adrift if she lost herself in God and His Love, because she is adrift now! It’s as if God is like a big ship sailing effortlessly across the ocean, sure of its direction, fully confident in its power. Behind the ship is a rope to which is attached a dinghy (Paula). The dinghy just lets itself be pulled along by the “mother ship.” Then the dinghy decides to sever the connection, thereby setting itself adrift. Now it’s out there on the big ocean all by itself, and it feels terribly alone. Having no power of its own, it can’t go anywhere. The big ship sails on, not even noticing that the little dinghy has cut itself loose, set itself “free.” All this dinghy called “Paula” has to do is call out for help to re-establish the connection and it’s done.

Paula said that she feels like a scared little girl, banging at a closed door begging to be let in. As we talked, she realized that she doesn’t need to clamour to be let back into Heaven and the Heart of God. She’s not banging against a closed door. It’s not a hopeless situation. The door is open. It’s only her refusal that keeps her out.

As we came to a close today, I looked at my beloved pupil and these words of Jesus’ came to mind and seemed to be the perfect way to end our session:

How long, O holy Son of God? How long? (W-pII.4:5, “What is Sin?”)

How long, indeed?

* Paula graciously agreed to let me use her name: a testament to her honesty and openness.

** Paula’s comment reminds me of Robert’s recent insights about the relationship between the events of our lives and the lessons we’re here to learn (see his “How are the events of our lives lessons?” blog, May 27). Self-hatred is a life-long pattern and continuing challenge for Paula, one that recurs in situation after situation. The Holy Spirit has designed each situation so that the correction is within her reach and she can make another choice (love) and learn a new lesson (the Holy Spirit’s that she is the Son of God, “as pure and holy” as Himself). Each time she makes that different choice and learns that new lesson, it is reinforced and strengthened in her, and the destructive lifelong pattern diminishes in strength until one day, “perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow,” it will be gone.