Rev. Tony Articles 1987 to 1999

Rev. Tony Articles 1987 to 1999

The Final Day

Teachers talk frequently about starting the study of *A Course In Miracles*, about beginning to do the lessons found in the *Workbook*. However, we rarely hear about finishing the book. In 1995, the last day of the calendar year fell on a Sunday. That meant we at the Community Miracles Center had a Sunday Service on December 31st, the day we practiced the last lesson of the *Workbook*, #365. The sermon dealt with finishing the *Course* along with a wide variety of other topics.

This month we're doing something different. Instead of an article, were including a lightly edited sermon, to give readers a "virtual"experience of hearing Rev. Tony speak. Just imagine it the last day of the year, December 31st, 1995 at 11 a.m. You've probably got some partying plans for the evening, but right now you're at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco on Market Street. The room is full of Miracles students. The sun is shinning brightly through the west windows and the rose walls look mirly and festive with all the holiday decorations still in place. Earlier, Rev, Tony led us in a meditation on "This holy instant would I give to You. — Be You in charge for I would follow You, — Certain that your direction gives me peace." (W 476/486) We've just finished singing "Auld Lang Syne"and now Rev. Tony begins to speak.

December 31 CalendarAs most of you who have been coming recently know, I am being very ecumenical this year so again I want to offer you all Happy Kwanzaa, because today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa, which is "Ujamaa", meaning "the day of sharing." Tomorrow will be the last day of the Kwanzaa celebration. Kwanzaa is a seven day progression that African Americans celebrate and tomorrow's day will be "Kuumba"which means "the day of creativity,"so we can think of sharing today and of creativity tomorrow and if you have any African American friends just go up to them and say "Happy Kwanzaa"and see what they do. They'll probably say "What?" Actually, a lot of people know what Kwanzaa is. I heard more about it this year than I ever heard about it before so it is definitely out there.

This is the last day of the year, and for us here at the Community Miracles Center it is very significant because we do the Workbook lessons in the yearly sequence and that means we are finishing the book today. It is always a great accomplishment to get through the Workbook one more time and I love the way the lessons progress because, as the year progresses and you get towards the holiday season, you have those wonderful, short, poetic lessons and then you end the year with the beautiful lesson of the day we all practiced a few minutes ago about turning your life over to the Holy Spirit. And the way the lessons are constructed, you do the last lesson for five consecutive days, so that if you have done the Workbook more than once or twice, it gets indelibly stamped into your consciousness.

There is a passage in the Workbook we did just a week or two ago that talks about this final time of the year. It says, "Our use for words is almost over now. Yet in the final days of this one year we gave to God together, you and I, we found a single purpose that we shared." (W 469/485) There are a couple of ideas here I would like to focus on. As you progress in the Course, the use for words, or the importance of words, gradually drops away. As we get to the final lesson there are really no words at all except just an awareness that we are turning our mirs over to the Holy Spirit and that we really don't know what it is we should be doing but we are confident that, at any given moment, the Holy Spirit will guide us — so there are these ideas in that phrase. More importantly, for me, is the thought that we found a single purpose for our mirs, and we found we share that single purpose with all our brothers and sisters. I know as I progress in this teaching, that idea get more and more real for me. I begin to realize that my life does not have the purposes I thought it had when I was a younger man, and as I go along, I see that there is just one purpose for life and that is really to be a spokesperson for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses all of us to be vehicles for the salvation of the world and we share that one purpose with every single person that we meet. The wonderful thing about joining in fellowship like this, here, is that we get a chance to share that purpose with other people who also know it is their purpose too, and that strengthens it for us and really makes it stronger in our minds.

I was part of a generation that was always looking around trying to figure out what our purpose in life was. You know, we shunned the purpose that our parents' generation had, and that was fine, we rebelled against that, but we didn't really have much to replace it with. Sex, drugs and rock n' roll worked for about ten years but it got a little boring — if one managed to stay amir — and we really needed something else. What I realized is that A Course In Miracles has actually given me a purpose that is not going to go stale after a decade because the salvation of the world is a mighty task. While sometimes we may think we are not up for the challenge, it is really our job to trust the Holy Spirit's interpretation and not get caught up in our own perception. So, I think this is a good question for us to be engaged in on this final day of the year. The question of, "How did I participate in the salvation of the world this year?" Did I do what Holy Spirit wanted me to do? Did I relate to the people Holy Spirit wanted me to relate to? Did I do my best to forgive them in those moments when the Holy Spirit guided me to forgive them?

People get very hung up on the idea that they are here for the salvation of the world because it seems like such an awesome task and none of us here in bodies really feel we are up to the challenge. I know some people voice words like they are up for the challenge but I think within our hearts we know we all have that other voice that frequently tells us we are not. And what's important for me to remember about this is I only think I'm not up for the challenge if I am perceiving the challenge incorrectly and A Course In Miracles tells us what is the correct way to perceive the challenge, "The part you play in salvaging the world from condemnation is your own escape." (T 540/582) Our only responsibility is to let go of our self condemnation — to let go of the ways we put guilt upon ourselves. We don't have to necessarily worry about all of the fear and anger that appears to be in the world, because as we learn in A Course In Miracles, fear and anger just appear to be in the world because they're really in our own mind. So, the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for him or herself, to accept the salvation for him or herself. In other words, to do whatever internal work we need to do to release ourselves from our own sense of inadequacy and our own sense of guilt.

Even that is an easy task when you study A Course In Miracles because all it involves is being able to identify when you are in that place of fear and guilt and turning it over, just as today's lesson says, to the Holy Spirit confident and trusting that the Holy Spirit is going to be able to give you a new, healed perception. We don't really have to do anything but work on ourselves. Now how this translates into our own worldly experience is going to be very, very different — people take very different roads in translating this and making it real for themselves. There was a very streetwise minister a number of years ago that was quite popular — maybe some of you know this man, his name was Reverend Ike. Reverend Ike had some wonderful little pithy statements that he used to say. When Reverend Ike was asked what should we do about the poor his statement was, "The best thing you can do for the poor is not become one." And some people trashed him because of that, saying that he had no compassion. But in truth, it's really a lot like what A Course In Miracles is telling us — the best we can do about the condemnation, or the fear in the world, is to not condemn and get ourselves in a fearful place. We have to free ourselves.

In another place in the Course it says "It is essential, however, that you free yourself quickly, because you must emerge from the conflict if you are to bring peace to other minds." (T 30/34) All too often, when we set about to do the altruistic work in the world we think we should do, we are embroiled in an internal self concept that truthfully means we're just perpetuating the problem, not really answering it. There is nothing necessarily wrong with altruistic work, but it's important to realize what frame of mind we are coming from in order to do the work in such a way that it really does some good in the world. In another place in the Course — we actually read this very recently in the Workbook — it says, "We will not end this year (again, talking about coming to the end of the year) without the gift, our Father promised to His holy son." (W 475/485) A Course In Miracles is a spiritual discipline that gives you a guarantee! It gives you promises and I believe, after teaching for as long as I have, that if people do the work and do what is asked of them, they will all say they got even more than they thought they were going to get. I don't know anybody who has really done the work, done the lessons and stayed involved, done what was asked of them, who does not feel as if they have received the gift that God had promised them. I know, in my own life, that I can witness to that. I can testify to that. This discipline has given me gifts I never realized I could even have! The main one, as I spoke of earlier, is finally, a profound sense of purpose about my life. I can't think of any gift I would rather have. I think of all the years I wandered around wondering what my life was about — to now have this strong foundation and this concrete and powerful sense of purpose brings me a sense of peace that I didn't realize was possible.

Last week at our Christmas service, and some of you were here for that, we did a process where we wrote a letter to ourselves in which we thanked ourselves for the gifts we had brought into our mirs this year and we wrote down some of the gifts that we wanted to bring into our mirs in the coming year. That was interesting for me because I was really happy about how many people participated in the process this year. We did this once before but some people chose not to participate in it, however we had 100% participation this year which I thought was great! For myself, I acknowledged that this has been a very abundant year in many ways, including monetarily. We've had a good year here at the Community Miracles Center. We've run in the black. I've also had a good year personally being in the black and watching my net worth increase. What is interesting about this is that at the beginning of this year we held three Abundance Workshops that I personally led. So, all I've got to say is that if you do the work, it works!

Oh, the criticism and flack we get for doing things that seem so worldly oriented as an Abundance Workshop, and sometimes in A Course In Miracles circles this is seen to be really "off Course." People say "You really missed the mark Tony. It's not about that." But now at the end of the year I can truthfully say: I did it, I wanted to see the results and I got wonderful results. I got abundance in all areas — the most important area is the abundance of purpose and peace and community. I have to admit, though, having an abundance of some monetary gains is a nice little perk too! So I'm really happy that's there and I definitely want to acknowledge it and I see the tie in with those three Abundance Workshops I led at the beginning of the year.

Another place in the Workbook says "And so we start upon the final part of this one holy year which we have spent together in the search for truth and God who is our creator. This year has brought us to eternity." (W 389/399) We are in the final stage of this year that many of us have spent studying A Course In Miracles together and I think it is important not to just brush over this lightly. We have all done wonderful things this past year. We've all set out with certain goals and we've all gotten results from our efforts. I think one of the problems we have in our culture is we don't acknowledge our own accomplishments and the things we do achieve. This is the final day of this one year and if we hope to accomplish great things in 1996, it's very, very important to acknowledge and complete, in your own mind, the things we accomplished in 1995. So we have a day to do that, and maybe many of us have celebrations to go to tonight where we can be in a festive atmosphere with other people or maybe we are just going to celebrate by ourselves, but one of the things I really charge you with, and put out there as a recommendation, is to take a little time to acknowledge the wonderful things you brought into your life this past year. It is very important so that you can complete those things by witnessing them and then personally rise to the level that those things have brought you to. Then we can approach 1996 from a higher plane, a higher plateau. That is how we approach eternity, step by step by step. I really do believe A Course In Miracles is an evolutionary plan for salvation, not really a revolutionary one. I do believe that it goes step by step by step. As revolutionary as some of the thoughts may be, the practice of it is evolutionary, at least for me. So in that process of rising up, I have to acknowledge where I am and what I have accomplished and I am definitely going to spend some time doing that today. Actually, I've been doing it all this week.

There is a passage in A Course In Miracles that talks specifically about New Year's Eve or New Year's Eve Day, and it says "This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ" ( T 306/329) So a new year is soon going to be born from this time of celebrating the birth of Christ or Christmas. It goes on to say, "I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish." ( T 306/329) Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, has absolute faith in us that we are going to do what we need to do. Then he goes on to say, "Nothing will be lacking and you will make complete and not destroy." ( T 306/329) We have to let that thought in, that the Holy Spirit, that Jesus, has absolutely perfect faith in us and that Holy Spirit is going to bring into our mirs every single thing, every single person, that we need in order to accomplish those things that we need to accomplish. As difficult as it is to fathom, there is going to be no lack and I am going to have all that I need. Let's spend a little time entertaining that idea today, because it is a wonderful, liberating thought to entertain. We are going to be given everything and we will indeed accomplish that which we need to accomplish. Then it gives us a very interesting charge or command, it says "Say then, to your brother: ..." ( T 306/329) It wants us to get involved in a relationship process here. It then gives us this beautiful prayer that it wants us to say to our brother or sister:

"I give you to the Holy Spirit as part of myself. — I know that you will be released unless I want to use you to imprison myself. — In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize that we will be released together." ( T 306/329)

In this final day of the year, again, a very important attitude for us to get into is realizing how we need to release all of our brothers and sisters from the imprisonment of our judgments. We need to get actively involved in that and one of the things that is probably good to do is to go through your mind and see if you have any unfinished business with any of your brothers and sisters. Bring that unfinished business to the Holy Spirit and say this prayer to yourself about them. Visualize giving them to the Holy Spirit, knowing that you will be released if you release them and in the name of your own freedom, you offer them release from all of the judgment that you are holding against them. Because, you know if you release them, that you are going to be released.

We can really let go of these things that we are carrying around, in fact, we need to let go of them if we are going to progress on our path in 1996. Today, on the final day of this year, is the perfect time to go through your mind and take a little mental inventory and see if there is anybody that you are still imprisoning. As A Course In Miracles says, you can't imprison somebody without being in the jail with them; if you are holding someone in prison, you are the jailer and you are there in that prison too. (See W 356/366) So if we want to get release from the prison, we have to release our brothers and sisters. For me, even though this seems to be very hard to do at times, I really approach this like the game it is. I talked about this a week or two ago. This whole process of A Course In Miracles is a game and it says as much. "Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play." (W 278/286) This is the happy game that we play! We look through our minds; we see what grievances we are holding. We do what we need to do to offer them up to the Holy Spirit and then we ask for guidance to see if there is any worldly thing that we need to do in order to make the forgiveness complete.

We look through our minds; we acknowledge the gifts that we brought into our mirs. We look through our minds and say, "I still have thoughts that I can't accomplish all you would have me do but yet you promise me you will give me everything I need in order to accomplish the things I need to do, so I will play the game as if it were true even though, I know, that at certain levels I don't believe it." That is what we do. That's the game; that's how it works. That's how we save ourselves and thusly save the world. Remember, all we have to do is save ourselves. That's how it's done; that's how the game is played.

Relationships are a very, very strong part of it. That's why I thought we would sing the song "Auld Lang Syne"today, not just because it's traditional. Because it's really all about being in relationship with people and remembering the good, letting go of the bad, and drinking a cup of cheer with those people that are in your mirs. You know, years ago, I was such a rebel, I would never have sung a song like "Auld Lang Syne"because it was just too corny and traditional. It's a major thing in my life to be able to say that now I realize the corniest and the most traditional thing I ever did was hold thoughts like that! It doesn't get any cornier than that — to rebel against everything and to think that everything needs to get thrown out is as old as it gets. I always had that idea, "Kill meaningless ritual." Just get rid of it. Isn't that just what many of us have done for years? Now, I can really embrace things like singing "Auld Lang Syne"and really get into: what the meaning of that song is, why it has survived for hundreds of years and just what a joy it is to be able to share an experience like that with people — because everybody knows it. And today is Ujamaa day, if you are celebrating Kwanzaa, the day of sharing. I am sharing "Auld Lang Syne"with the people that know it and everybody in this culture knows it! So I don't fight things like that anymore! That's what I realize as this year ends, the fight has gone out me. I'm willing just to go along with the world if it's benign. If everybody in the world wants to celebrate Christmas, I'll celebrate Christmas. If everybody wants to sing "Auld Lang Syne", I'll sing "Auld Lang Syne"because those things are just neutral things and they only have the energy I bring to them. I can bring loving, healing, light energy to these things and see them as wonderful, meaningful experiences for me and that's what I choose to do because that's the salvation game, that's how it's played. And I want to pass go and collect the two hundred dollars! Because, "Why not?!"

I wrote many articles for our publication this year and the most popular article that I wrote, the one I got the most feedback on, was probably my article on community. (See: Vol.9, No.8 / Oct. '95) Everybody seemed to be able to relate to that, even people that were not A Course In Miracles students. My Mother, also, liked it a lot! We received lots of positive comments. That's one of the things that really came into my life this year, a deepening and a broadening of this sense of community that we have here. I see our community getting wider in the scope of the people that participate with us and I see the Community Miracles Center being able to accept an amazing diversity of individuals — being really bonded to our people in the sense that we all know that we are all here for that same purpose I spoke of earlier. We've found our shared purpose, that purpose of being the salvation of the world. A Course In Miracles says the lonely journey fails, (See T 273/295) and definitely, this year, I have not felt lonely, ever, because I am constantly immersed in this wonderful community of loving people. So, I would have to say that my journey must be succeeding because the sense of community is indeed so strong.

The Workbook also says, "Yet we will not content ourselves with simple practicing in the remaining holy instants which conclude the year that we have given God." (W 388/398) We have just given a year to God and we shouldn't content ourselves now with just practicing these ideas. In other words, we should actually be bringing into our mirs some real experiences that make these ideas true for us. The Course is not just about meaningless practice and ritual, it's about practice in order to achieve results. We need to look for these results, for I know that when I look for these results, I definitely see them.

One of the wonderful results of being in community and participating with miracles people is seeing the wonderful experiences that it gives other people whom you don't really realize you are affecting. We had a beautiful potluck party at Reverend Larry's on Christmas Day, and it was gorgeous. We had a great time. There was probably sixty to eighty people, and a lot of loving feelings, but some of us were busy doing our "schtick": washing dishes, setting up food and playing some. The next day when I went into the office, there was a wonderful message on the answering machine. And I want to play that message for you now so that you all get to hear the kinds of things that happen just around this space of spiritual community:

(A women's voice comes on over the loud speakers sounding like it was recorded on an answering machine, which it was.) "Hi Tony, This is Kitty Vaughan calling. I just am overflowing with gratitude for yesterday. It was just the best Christmas I've ever had. I just felt and saw God in so many of the people. It was so uplifting! It wasn't just the beauty of you and of Larry and the gorgeous decorations and the wonderful food but the people and the fellowship and the whole spirit of . Oh, it was just absolutely miraculous! I'm just so grateful to have been there! Thank you so much Tony & Larry! Bye now."

Just being there in community, what she said was that she felt and saw God in so many people, and it wasn't just that the food was great (and the food was great), and it wasn't just that there were gorgeous decorations (and there were), and it wasn't just any of the particular things but it was that when she was amongst this group of people, this spiritual fellowship, she felt that shared purpose — she felt God.

I know that as I proceed on this path, participating with all of you in this community, it's experiences like these that we really all share because we all participate in this community. This is what really gives me a sense of purpose what propels me and raises me to a new plateau. A plateau from where I know that 1996 will be even more grand and full of more healing.

OK. That's it! Happy New Year! Thank You!

© 1996 Rev. Tony Ponticello, San Francisco, CA – All rights reserved.

Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

This article appeared in the January 1996 (Vol. 9 No. 11) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.

Dealing with the Ego

I thought I'd do some basics this month and write about the ego, or more accurately, how to deal with the ego. The ego is something we all have to deal with. I've always found the following passage interesting and important for any discussion about the ego because the quotation puts the ego in the correct context. "I have spoken " of course this is Jesus talking to us, or the Holy Spirit speaking through the vehicle named Jesus. "I have spoken of the ego as if it were a separate thing, " (T 61/67) which to me means the ego's not separate but Jesus is speaking about it as if it were " acting on its own. This was necessary to persuade you that you cannot dismiss it lightly, and must realize how much of your thinking is ego-directed." (T 61/67) This has several different thoughts in it that I think are important for us when we're finally looking at our ego and figuring out how to interact with it, how to deal with it.

60 40 Pie ChartWe're always going to be in somewhat of a compromise, metaphysically, with the ego. The compromise is that the ego isn't real, doesn't exist and is not truly a separate thing. However, at our particular stage of insanity, illusion, "stuckness" (whatever it is we are), we have to make certain compromises with the absolute to find an effective way out. This is always a little difficult for metaphysicians and A Course In Miracles students who may have no idea that there is a compromise to make. They usually believe just the opposite, that making no compromise is the way out of the "duality" maze. However, I think this passage, as well as many others in the Course, is pointing out that compromise. The ego is not a separate thing; it's not even really a "thing" at all. However, we have to think of it as if it were and deal with it as if it were, to navigate successfully our way through this ego illusion. The bus may not be real, but you had better treat it as if it were and step out of its way or your life will soon take a very dramatic turn for the worse. It's even appropriate for us to think of the ego as a separate entity that's trying to trip us up, in the same way traditional Christianity conceptualizes the devil. This separate, malevolent entity we call ego has been ordained, throughout time, to seduce us to doom, depression, destruction and death.

I have found, through my study of metaphysics and A Course In Miracles, that the Christian devil is, indeed, not the real entity I was led to believe. We learn here that our ego is not necessarily a real entity either. However, at this particular level of trying to escape from ego involvement, we have to deal with it as if it were. The ego is a big careening bus that has taken a direct aim on us and we had better learn how to step around it. We almost have to deal with it the same way traditional Christians deal with the devil. That quotation said, "This was necessary to persuade you that you cannot dismiss it lightly." (T 61/67) If we think of the ego as an outside entity attacking us, trying to kill us, we will take it seriously. If we get too high and mighty we may think, "After all, the ego's not real so I can just ignore it." This is the inevitable "level confusion" pitfall. We don't take ego seriously and we don't do what is needed to heal and escape from it. Eventually, we just get slung back into the ego pit of despair.

Remember that the passage also stated, "... and (you) must realize how much of your thinking is ego directed." (T 61/67) Here's another unique idea for me. How much of our thinking is ego directed? That is a good question to ask yourself! Sometimes, people who try to fake it till they make it, or those who really believe they have made it, will say none of their thinking is ego directed. They are in just one, whole, right mind all the time. They put that idea out there and I want to acknowledge them. They are "better" people than I am. "Congratulations" all of you out there who are never in your ego. I am! Now, the question is how much of the time am I in my ego. Well, that's an interesting question.

On the other extreme from those who claim no ego, there is a tendency to think that we're always in our ego and never hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Many believe they are always going from one "body" thought to the next "body" thought (or the next "anger" thought or "fear" thought). Some say they are always in defense mode. I think that is just as ludicrous as the idea of saying you are always in the Holy Spirit. I really believe that the condition of our mind is much more in the middle of that whole continuum.

I have asked this question frequently and before I wrote this article I asked Holy Spirit, "Give me some figures. How much am I usually in the ego and how much am I usually in the Holy Spirit?" I "heard" it was a 60/40 thing with tremendous daily variations. I figured this must mean I'm about 60% of the time in my ego mind. However, don't forget that this means I have a real 40% of the time when I'm truly being "Tony the Christ" and in the Holy Spirit. I thought this was probably O.K. Then I "heard" that the 60/40 thing might be the other way. On good days, when I feel peaceful, happy and confident, I'm only 40% in my ego and 60% in the Holy Spirit. That's much better than O.K. That's, "G-r-r-r-r-eat!" (As "Tony the Tiger" used to say.)

Then, of course, I too occasionally have days when I'm totally filled with dread and anxiety and feel that my own personal world is coming to an end. On those days I'm probably 90% in the ego. I think we vary in a range like that and I don't think it's an absolute 100% ego or Holy Spirit for anybody, regardless of what those people may say. I know people say certain things, and that's fine. I don't care what people say. I believe we're in a middle range. Maybe sometimes we're 90% in the Holy Spirit but I think as long as we're maintaining bodies there is some percentage of our mind that flips into the ego from time to time. You can ask yourself this percentage question frequently and I think if you did you would learn a lot. "How much of the time today have I been in the peaceful, Holy Spirit, God-centered part of my mind? How much of today have I felt separate, in fear and have been in the ego state?" These mental "barometer" checks would help us to grow.

Like The Rug Gets Pulled Out From Under You

What I've learned from frequently asking this question is all that's actually necessary for us to do is to shift our personal percentage, whatever it is, a few points more toward the Holy Spirit side of the equation. I've learned that a few percentage points make a big difference in the way I feel. Sometimes, people think it is "all or nothing" and they get disillusioned if they catch themselves in ego. I think this problem of getting disillusioned is mostly because we have this all or nothing view. I, now, don't believe it's all or nothing. That's why I think it healthy for us to ask what percentage of the time we are in ego or Holy Spirit because when we see the range that our percentage fluctuates in, we'll see the value of shifting just a few percentage points. For instance, if today I'm 60% in the ego and 40% in Holy Spirit, maybe I could push for 55/45. Maybe, if I could just catch myself in the ego a little sooner and make the corrections I need to make just a little earlier, I could spend more time thinking God centered, fearless thoughts. I'll be moving that percentage more towards the Holy Spirit side and that's probably the best I can do today. I think this a lot. This is how it works for me. If I can shift ever so slightly towards the Holy Spirit side of things, I'll have the awareness that things are getting better, that I'm feeling better. When I'm feeling better the experience carries me and helps me shift even more, another couple of percentage points. All that is necessary for me is to create, within my mind, the experience of, "I'm feeling more at peace than I was a little while ago." If I can do that it has momentum that carries me into greater and greater experiences of peace so that I can get my percentage up even higher.

Of course, then the questions come: "But once you get your percentage up, why doesn't it stay there? Why is there this fluctuation? Why is it moving around? Why don't we just make a steady progression toward peace?" Unfortunately, I don't think that's the way the mind works in this particular illusion called the world. The Text talks about this. The Course wants us to see who we really are. It states, "It is not you that is so vulnerable and open to attack that just a word, a little whisper that you do not like, a circumstance that suits you not, or an event that you did not anticipate upsets your world, and hurls it into chaos." (T 470/506) This is what goes on with the mind that's in the separated condition. We could have just spent days being heavily in Holy Spirit and then this "thing" happens -- this "little whisper" that we didn't anticipate. Something happens that we didn't like. The awareness of a circumstance exists that just doesn't fit and suddenly, even though we'd been in peace in Holy Spirit mode for a long time, the ego gets hold of us and we get hurled into chaos. That's just the way it is.

I've had this experience repeatedly and I'm always: (1) just amazed at how devastating it is, and (2) astounded at how little it takes to push me there. One "bad" phone call and within thirty seconds, where I was at peace before, I'm suddenly a mess. I think, "How did I get so hooked so completely, so quickly?" Yet, that question is just another part of the hook. I need to realize, "O.K., I've spent a couple of minutes in the ego. However, all I have to do is get my percentage up a little bit more by consciously choosing to think Holy Spirit thoughts right now and I will have the experience of things getting better." That experience helps to get my percentage up higher and higher and higher. The key thing about dealing with the ego is accepting the variability of the separated mind. This is the way the mind is in this split state. Mind vacillates all over the place. If we accept this and don't make it so negative when the ego detour happens we will work at making the little shifts we need to make. We will work on that couple of percentage points difference and we will gradually move ourselves back to prolonged periods of peace.


Now sometimes people, including myself, will have hard times making even those small shifts. Thoughtfully, A Course In Miracles provides us with the following little safety net, "And if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself." (T 581/625) Here again, is one of those ideas from the Course that can be put in the realm of the compromise ideas I wrote of earlier. We know we should always be able to be at peace and at love and joy. Yet A Course In Miracles tells us sometimes we're going to have to accept that we're just not able. We're going to have to compromise a little bit. We're going to have to understand that resistance is just too strong, right now. Our dedication is too weak. When this happens, don't fight yourself; it's only going to make things worse. This quotation can be used positively; it can also be abused and used negatively. I think we have to ask for help and be Holy Spirit guided when we are simply not able make the mental shifts. Used positively, there have been times for me when knowing that I have the safety net, knowing that I could just let my ego have its way, helps me to move a couple more percentage points toward to the Holy Spirit. Knowing that I don't have to do it totally 100% and that if it gets absolutely too hard for me, I don't have to torture myself. (The ego is quite capable of doing that.) I can just let the ego run its thoughts through my mind.

Knowing this helps me move just a little bit more towards the Holy Spirit because in my ego thinking, or in my wrong minded thinking, I get hooked in "all or nothing." When I'm aware that I can't have it all I all too often go for having nothing. When I realize that there is this a range and I don't have to push myself more than is really possible, then I find I am able to go a few more steps. It's just like working out physically. If we think that the only way to go to the gym is to go every other day and spend two hours there, many of us (including me) may not be able to do that. (Then again, you may be "better" people than I am.) I am not able to do that but it helps me knowing that I don't necessarily have to do that. If I can get myself to the gym just once a week (or even once every other week), spend only one hour there, at least that helps me move in the right direction. So these ideas, resistance strong, dedication weak, don't worry you don't have to fight yourself, (see T 581/625) usually help me to do a little more, not a little less. I label that "positively" using the idea. Sure, some could (and probably do) abuse this idea and take it as a rationalization for not shifting as much as they really could and just staying stuck. I'm simply sharing my experience. It is (as always) up to you how you use any idea from A Course In Miracles.

Now, again, I will acknowledge there are definitely some people (those "better" people) who say they don't have these big anxiety slips into the ego. All I have to say to them is, "God bless you and I hope it's always that way for you." I know there can be the experience of not having big ego slips which can last for years and years. However, even for these people who have had the extended periods, years of time, of not feeling in the pits of ego, that "thing" can happen. There is, one day, a "little whisper," something happens they didn't anticipate (see T 479/506) and suddenly they're in the pits of despair and they think, "How did I get here? I had been so healed for so long?" Those moments, can be very devastating in people's mirs.

I've seen people who were excellent students, who had wonderful rose garden experiences studying A Course In Miracles, fall off the wagon and quit their study because of an unexpected slip into the despair pits. So if you haven't had one, fine, but just let into your mind the thought that you might, someday, have a slip (a big one) into the ego and that this doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your study of A Course In Miracles! It's just the way the mind works. Don't worry. You're not going to have to push yourself harder than you can. Just do the little bit that you can do and deal with your ego the best you can. Move it a couple of percentage points more toward the Holy Spirit and see if that doesn't make a big difference.

There is really something different about my ego slips now, and my slips into the pits of despair before I got into the Course, (I call these times my years "BC" -- Before Course). Whenever I had one of these slips into the ego in Tony's years BC, (sleepless nights, constant worry, preoccupation and obsession), I always thought I had to get out there in the world to change the external circumstances. Much of my life was dominated by that. I'd go along; everything was O.K. Then I'd have one of these deep slips into the ego and I did whatever I thought I needed to do the change the external situation. I'd break up the relationship, quit the job and/or move. I changed the externals. Now, I still have big slips into ego but I've learned I don't have to go out there and manipulate the external situation. All I have to do is sincerely ask the Holy Spirit for help and I observe that the feelings can change and shift. I can get myself back to peace without the external changing and that is miraculous! When I think what a shift of mind that is, Tony AC (After *Course*) from Tony BC, it's huge! To know that I can be in my own private hell and still know that nothing out there has to change for me to heal is a paradigm shift. I can ask for help from Holy Spirit, do what I can do mentally without having to do what I can't, and I will heal. I will feel better. I know that because it has happened so many times. This is a major shift for me

Food And Sex (Not At The Same Time)

The Workbook states, "(Forgiveness) merely looks, and waits, and judges not." (W 391/401) In dealing with the ego one of the major processes you need to internalize is: you look at it, you wait, you don't judge it. You don't resist it. This is what forgiveness is. This is how you deal with the ego. You look at it, you wait; you don't "handle" it. You may let it work its way through your mind. You don't necessarily have to change anything. That's a very key issue for me.

A Course In Miracles tells us that the ego is very hooked into the body. Most times when we think of the ego, we think of the voice in our mind and we forget the ego's absolute use of the body as its playground. All the so-called body appetites are actually ego ideas. I can deal with body appetites the same way I deal with any ego idea. It works with hunger just as well as it works with thoughts of fear. I don't necessarily have to do anything with hunger, because I've realized that if I do something with it or not, it amounts to the same thing. I'm hungry again a little later. Right? I get hungry; I eat. I'm fine. I get hungry again a couple of hours later. I get hungry; I don't eat. Guess what? In an hour or so I usually don't think about being hungry. I'm usually not hungry and then a little later I'm hungry again. So, the hunger goes away, the hunger comes back, the hunger goes away, the hunger comes back.

Now if hunger doesn't illustrate the workings of the ego for you, think about sex. Sex is a good example. You get horny. You have sex or you don't have sex. Either way, the horniness goes away. A little while later it comes back. It doesn't matter what you do with it, act out the appetite or not. The appetite comes and goes. I think that's what A Course In Miracles wants us to realize. The ego has a playground in our body and these desires and thoughts come and go. We attempt to handle them externally and sometimes we get little bits of external relief but they always come back. "Any way you handle error results in nothing." (T 145/156) We don't really have to do anything! The Course states "Body appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home, and tries to satisfy itself through the body. But the idea that this is possible is a decision of the mind, which has become completely confused about what is really possible." (T 53/58) Remember, body appetite is just another ego game played out in the body. In another place the Course states, "... the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision-maker. Terms like 'instincts,' 'reflexes' and the like represent attempts to endow the body with non-mental motivators. Actually, such terms merely state or describe the problem. They do not answer it." (M 16/17) I know most of us, at one time or another, have had some difficulty controlling our, so-called, body appetites. Realize that this is just another ego thing with which you have to deal. The way to deal with it, the way to get control of it, is the same way you do for the ego voice in your mind. You listen, you wait; you don't judge it. You don't have to do anything to handle it. You take it to the Holy Spirit and do what the Holy Spirit guides you to do. You eat, if you feel guided to by the Holy Spirit. Engage in sex if you feel guided to by the Holy Spirit. Don't let the ego run those things. Turn them over to Holy Spirit and He/She will use them in a way that won't hurt you. In dealing with the ego, we need to know that the things that go on in your life and in your body aren't physical. They're just the same as any other ego conversation. You look at them, you wait; you judge them not. We turn them over to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit handles them for us.

Now, this idea that the body doesn't really get hungry or have other needs is a tough one. That's one of the higher teachings of the Course. It's definitely something we're all not ready to accept. A lot of us think, "Hey, I'm hungry. There's no fuel in the body. I'm supposed to eat." Many are rooted firmly in this idea and that's O.K. A Course In Miracles tells us it's O.K. "Our course is not concerned with any concept that is not acceptable to anyone, regardless of his formal beliefs. His ego will be enough for him to cope with, and it is not the part of wisdom to add sectarian controversies to his burdens." (M 57/60) Whether you truly believe the Course when it says the physical world is only a mental construct or whether you don't, the truth is it really doesn't matter. That's just part of the "sectarian controversies" we can get involved in. "How literally should we take the Course? What does it really mean?" In truth, the only thing we have to worry about is that voice for fear within our mind. Learn to identify your ego, that voice of separation and of doom. Learn to turn it over to the Holy Spirit and ask for help and the rest of "it" will fall into line and will be taken care of. Don't worry too much about the loftier ideas.

If you're trying to engage with the ego on this higher level (the body itself being only a manifestation of our ego desires) and you can't quite see how that works for you, the Course grants us another compromise. It states "It is not necessary to follow fear through all the circuitous routes by which it burrows underground and hides in darkness, to emerge in forms quite different from what it is." (T 302/325) It's not necessary for us to get our minds in there and try to figure out all these intricacies. Psychologically we may think, "I'm hungry because I really don't want to tell person 'X' that they made me angry. I always go to food whenever this happens" or, "I go out and have sex whenever this happens." We can get involved in all these psychological ways of dealing with the problem. Yet, the Course tells us that it's not necessary. You don't have to dig underneath and find out the way the ego is doing that. The ego is doing that, period. That's where it all comes from. All we have to do is handle the ego things that are right in front of us and clearly visible. I've said this before, "If it's not fifty feet in front of you, you should really ask whether your supposed to be involved in this issue or not."

People not only dig underneath their own mirs, but they also dig underneath other mirs all over the world to try to find some ego issue for them to focus on. I question that tendency. Of course, we're going to do what we are guided to do. However for me, when I'm dealing with the ego, I try to deal with the ego manifestations that are directly in front of my face. This means either my own life directly, or the mirs of those people I have direct intimate interaction with. That's where my ego surfaces. Other than that, I'm simply an observer. I am interested in the world. I watch the news but I don't get ego invested in it and upset about it. It's what's going on out there. I see it as a projection of my own mind but I'm not going to dig underneath all those news stories to locate the "circuitous routes." I do not need to figure out why I manifested President Clinton and Senator Dole saying what they say. It's just not important for me to do so. I'll deal with what's in front of me.

Five Things To Remember

My last point about the ego is stated in this quotation, "Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability." Now here's the kicker, "He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable." (T 51/56) Whenever you start thinking about the ego, remember we're not just responsible for your own ego, we make everyone else's ego as well. When someone irritates you, angers you, depresses you (substitute whatever negative adjective you want), you have to realize that it is not their ego that did something. There is no "their ego." It's always the ego we're making and putting on them.

Ultimately, we end up having to deal with the ego that now appear s to be "out there" the same way we deal with the ego when it appears to be within us. What were those major ways of dealing?

One, you accept its variability. The ego is incredibly variable, bouncing around all the time. The ego I perceive in other people is going to be just as variable and the one I perceive in me. I don't have to get upset about it. I've heard people say, "Boy, that person appeared nice for awhile and then they showed their 'true colors.' Then I got to see what they were really like." Well, what you got to see was just the variability of ego. Your ego, their ego, it's all the same. It's not the truth about them. It's just the variability of the ego in this realm of illusion. Yes, people do lousy things. We think they do lousy things. The ego is that way but we don't have to try to force that on the person as if that's who they are. If we can maintain our peace we may be able to get an appearance of shift in them. That's not why we do it, however. Peace is the only reward. Appearances of shift are just interesting to note. "35. Miracles are expressions of love, but they may not always have observable effects." (T 3/5) Sometimes we observe a shift; sometimes we don't.

Two, never forget that it is not all or nothing. All we have to do is try to help ourselves and them shift a couple of percentage points towards Holy Spirit. It is our peaceful interaction with somebody when we perceive them or ourselves to be in ego that is important. To be a healing force in their mirs it's not necessary for us to get them into Holy Spirit all the time. If we can just react peacefully they will probably appear to shift a few percentage points toward peace too. I think that's healing. They will feel a little better and that better feeling will help them to shift more and feel even better. Hopefully, big shifts are on their way and we will eventually feel a lot better.

Three, in dealing with what appears to be another ego, as dealing with our own, we look, we wait, we judge not. You see the ego that appears out there, look, wait, don't judge it. It isn't anything real. It's just another perception of this variable self for ourselves and everybody else. It bounces all around. They slip into the blackness of despair just as we do. You don't have to do anything with it. Remember these words: look, wait, judge not. (see W 391/401)

Four, In dealing with ego, remember that we think we are tied into all these things that seems physical, food, sex, shelter, money and more. These appetites are not really physical. They're just manifestations of our own ego thinking. Remember that for the other people too. Other people get just as caught into externals as we do. In truth, their being caught in externals is just a reflection of our own being caught in externals. The same way we understand that about ourselves, we also need to understand that about them. They may believe they are depressed because their lover just left them, but we have to know they're not depressed because of any external thing that's going on. They're depressed because they're choosing not to perceive this event correctly. They're choosing to forget who they really are. If we remember for them, it helps them to remember. It helps them to shift just a few points because our remembering is their remembering and our ego is really just their ego. There isn't any difference.

Lastly, five, when dealing with ego, their ego, your ego whatever, limit yourself to the egos right in your sphere of influence, in the fifty feet around where you are. I think we all have enough to deal with if we work with what's in front of us and we don't have to dig up all those deep tunnels. The truth is, if the world is only a projection of our mind, wherever we focus our attention we'll project the things that we need to heal. We don't have to search out there to see where our healing is. The healing we need to work on will pop-up right in front of our face because the world is indeed a mirror reflecting everything that is in our mind anyway. We don't have to go find remote mirrors. The mirrors that our brothers and sisters hold up to us every day of our mirs will certainly do. They do for me.

Hopefully, this can help you. I'm sharing my techniques of how I deal with my ego and the egos that I perceive. I offer them because I think this is one of the key issues A Course In Miracles is giving us and I feel we can learn from each other.

We experience ego everywhere in this world.

Deal with it!

© 1996 Rev. Tony Ponticello, San Francisco, CA – All rights reserved.

Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

This article appeared in the October 1996 (Vol. 10 No. 8) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.

Praying for Our Best Interests

This article is being written on February 22nd, 1998. It is a lightly edited transcript of the sermon I gave today at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco. I know that this sermon and article are time sensitive. By the time you read this, three weeks will have gone by and the world situation will have changed. The words written here may seem out dated by then. However, I think they represent something that transcends the particular events they speak of, so I offer them in the context of the universal rather than the specific. Let us engage in the question, "Should we pray for something we would like to have happen in this world because we believe it will be in line with *A Course In Miracles* and it's basic message of peace and love of brother and sister?" Questions like these are at the heart of our spiritual practice.)

I think this is a very interesting time in the world.

President Bill ClintonAs many of you know I follow the news. I like to relate my own Course practice to world events, the things going on. This seems to be an increasing tendency for me as I practice the Course because, possibly, I no longer see such a separation between myself and the world I'm in. I feel part of the world. I'm interested in what's going on.

Read more: Praying for Our Best Interests

The Course, The Church, and the CMC

There are two very important questions that A Course In Miracles wants us to ask before we begin anything, "What do I want to come of this? What is this for?" (T 340)(T 365) Since this is a new year, I thought these might be good questions for us to ask ourselves here at the Community Miracles Center. These are important questions pertaining to our study of A Course In Miracles. These are important questions surrounding the issue of churches and our involvement with them and these are very important questions to ask about the C.M.C. itself. What do we want to come of our new year and our study of the Course? What are these organizations, or churches, that study and teach the Course for and how does the Community Miracles Center fit into the whole picture?

A Lone Standing ChurchLet's ask these questions? This newsletter goes out to over 1,750 people. You 1,750 who have received this issue and who are reading this article are sharing in an experience of study of the Course and participation with a Course church (the Community Miracles Center). What do we want to come of this? What is this for?

Read more: The Course, The Church, and the CMC

Community Values

I was feeling a little restless yesterday afternoon, a sunny Saturday in San Francisco, so I left our office on Market Street and went for a walk to see what was happening in our neighborhood called the Castro. There were two interesting things. The first occurred when I got to the busy, commercial intersection of 18th and Castro where there is always plenty of political activity with people in booths getting others to listen to their causes and to sign their petitions. True to form yesterday, there was a booth on the corner for Roberta Achtenburg who is running for the office of mayor here in San Francisco. I approached the booth to check out the scene and there was the mayoral candidate, Roberta, herself! I thought it was unusual to see her right there in the flesh. Ms. Achtenburg has considerable fame locally because she is an "out" lesbian (also a mother) who was in the national spotlight a couple of years ago when President Clinton appointed her to a prominent position at HUD (Housing and Urban Development, Assistant to the Secretary). Ms. Achtenburg also spoke on national television during Clinton's inauguration. Her appointment was controversial and opposed by the more conservative elements in Washington because of her "non-traditional" lifestyle and the threat to "family values" that thought it to be. (Jesse Helms called her a "damn lesbian.") Eventually the legislature ratified her appointment and Ms. Achtenburg served successfully until she recently decided to get more involved at the local, community level and run for mayor.

Public Toilet Market & Castro StreetYesterday, Ms. Achtenburg was on the street answering questions from anybody who was willing to wait their turn. There was a line of people doing just that and I joined them and listened to the questions and answers that ensued. On my turn I asked about the graffiti problem, because on my recent trip to New York City I saw how they had been successful at totally removing graffiti from their subways and buses. I saw this as an amazing accomplishment. Why couldn't San Francisco manage that? There were also very few panhandlers and visible homeless people in downtown Manhattan. I thought this too was a wonderful achievement. What was New York City doing "right" that San Francisco couldn't figure out and what would Ms. Achtenburg do if elected? These were my questions. What she answered is not the issue. I just thought it was very interesting to see this candidate, a prominent political figure, out there interacting in the streets, interacting in the community. It got me thinking about issues of community. What did it mean to be in community and active?

Read more: Community Values