On November 8, 2009, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation of the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Judging as we would have it be, that’s what I want to talk about today. This relates to the Workbook lessons that we just had. Yesterday’s lesson was, “I judge all things as I would have them be.” (Wk.Or.Ed.311) Today’s lesson, “I see all things as I would have them be.” (Wk.Or.Ed.312) A Course In Miracles puts those two thoughts together because they are almost the same idea. We judge things; we see things. They appear a certain way to us, because we judged them that way. Our seeing is actually a judgment on what they are.
You can use the terms “seeing” and “judgment” in A Course In Miracles terminology interchangeably. In today’s lesson we read, “Perception follows judgment. Having judged, you therefore see what you would look upon. For sight can merely serve to offer you what you would have.” (Wk.Or.Ed.312.1) Our sight gives us what we want. We choose to look at what we first decided to find in the world. That is a great challenge for us ACIM students. It’s one of the great challenges of the Course – that what I am seeing is what I have decided is real. I have decided it’s real so there it is in front of me.
What do I see when I look out in the world? Lately I see a government that can’t respond to its people and give us health care reform, like the people seem to truly want. I see congress bogging down, even though all the poles say people want health care reform. Somehow, the government, that is supposed to be there for the people, just chooses not to do it. I see unemployment rising. It went to 10.2% this past week. We heard this, and we can judge this, as a terrible statement. But if I think about it, is it really a terrible statement? It depends if you judge the glass half empty or half full. It does mean that 89.8% of the people are employed. That’s actually quite a bit of employment. You never hear anyone say, look almost 90% of the people are employed. You always hear them say 10% of the people are not employed. It just depends on which way you look at it.
There’s another thing I always want to remember about unemployment. We have to remember that, on a average, unemployment usually runs around five or six percent. It’s never down to zero. So, all there really has been is a rise of about five percent. This is one in twenty. It’s not actually that much. People sometimes wonder why the stock market is still rallying even though we have all this unemployment. Well, that’s because ninety percent of the people are employed and ninety percent of the people are still spending money. Businesses are still doing well and that’s why the stock market is going up. It’s really not that confusing.
I do see a lot of things. I see Reverend Larry whose body is really sick right now. (Rev. Larry’s body has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.) Reverend Larry is the co-minister here. His body is quite ill, and I see it. It’s difficult to look at it, but in truth my Course training always has me see that it’s just neutral, visual information. It actually has no meaning in and of itself. Its just going to have the meanings that I judge it to have. I am going to see it as I have judged that I want to see it.
I do want to tell you that Reverend Larry sends his love and support, and he wishes he was here. He did make it in last week as some of you know. It was a very big effort for him to come last week. His health has deteriorated a bit since then; his energy has deteriorated. It was just to difficult for him to try to make it in today, but he does start treatment this week so keep your hopeful thoughts that the treatment is going to be effective and that his energy level will rise. We hope that we will see him back here very soon. It’s easy for me to judge the image of Reverend Larry being sick. He was my romantic partner for seventeen years. He has been my partner in the Community Miracles Center for over twenty-two years. There is a lot of connection. I, at times, definitely feel bad about what I see. He’s lost about 80 pounds. I can definitely think this body illness is a terrible thing. However, A Course In Miracles tells me when something does not feel good all that means is that I have judged it incorrectly. I am not thinking about this illness correctly if my perception is stuck on something not feeling good.
To the extent that I don’t feel good about things: the government, unemployment, the wars in the Middle East, Reverend Larry, the fact that the state of Maine has repelled gay marriage, whatever it is I don’t feel good about, this is just me looking at it incorrectly. If I offer it up to the Holy Spirit there would be a different way to perceive all these things, and I could feel good about them, or at least see them as neutral. All these things are just a part of physical life.
A Course In Miracles says “Your mind and mine can unite in shining your ego away and releasing the strength of God into everything you think and will and do.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) We can unite with Jesus; we can unite with the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we shine the ego away. Then it says, “Do not settle for anything less than this ...” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) This is really all we should be striving for. Any other goal less than that we should not be settling for. We settle, or embrace, our one goal, that is uniting with the divine and shinning in our life so our life is a healing influence to all the world, to every image that is out there that seems to be less than it should be. Then the Course goes on, “... and refuse to accept anything but this as your goal ...” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) Accept this uniting, shinning, healing, releasing the strength of the divine, releasing the strength of God, releasing the strength of the Goddess – this is all that we are here to do.
A Course In Miracles continues, “Watch your minds carefully for any beliefs that hinder its accomplishment, and step away from them.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) This is the task of ACIM, the job of the Course. We have to be vigilant about our minds, our thoughts, and especially the beliefs that we have. I think it is especially important to be vigilant of our beliefs. We can let go of our dark, separation thoughts, but some of these thoughts are always going to be there. They’re just insane thoughts. It’s when they coalesce into a belief that it truly becomes a problem. It’s our beliefs that become manifest. We can have all kinds of insane thoughts, but we can choose to laugh at our insane thoughts. If we laugh at them they won’t have the same consequence.
Next A Course In Miracles tells us something very interesting. This quote relates to my theme for today. The Course says, “Judge how well you have done this by your own feelings, for this is the one right use of judgment.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) It’s told us to judge how well we have done this mind watching. What does this mean? If we are watching our minds for these erroneous beliefs in lack, we can judge how well we have done this by how we feel. I think this is a very important thing. A lot of spiritual disciplines talk about the releasing of judgment. ACIM does not talk here about releasing judgment. It actually talks about us using judgment, but using it in a different way. The one right way to use judgment is to judge the way we feel. If we are feeling bad, off, or just not good, we are supposed to judge that as meaning that we are thinking wrong. So, ACIM is not truly about the releasing of judgment. It’s about the shifting of judgment and using it in a different way.
So if I look at Rev. Larry and see him weak and ill, I have to judge what do I believe about that. If it doesn’t feel good then it is not what the Holy Spirits wants me to believe. If that is happening then I am not being vigilant. I am not watching my mind for those erroneous beliefs. I am not accepting my goal of uniting, shinning, and releasing the strength of God. How could I be more vigilant than I am? I can always ask the Holy Spirit to help me be more vigilant than I am. A Course In Miracles says “Judgment, like any other defense, can be used to attack or protect, to hurt or to heal.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.64) We have to shift how we’re using judgment. There is a right way to use judgment and, as I said, this is a very unique idea to ACIM. This is different than some of the popular Eastern philosophies.
I could look at the government, the debate on health care, and be truly grateful and thankful that it has gotten this far. We have a discussion going on. I am grateful anytime there is a national discussion that unites people in a common experience. Usually, our society is off this way and that way. People are off on different tangents. When you have something like this that is uniting people in a discussion about how they want their government to be, and how they want the future to be, that’s an amazing and powerful thing. People have united in a discussion. They are talking and working at manifesting the future. It is hard to change the great ship of state, the ship of our society. Those shifts and changes, those movements, happen very slowly.
Another state, Maine, has made same sex marriages illegal. It was very similar to what happened in California. First they were legal or going to become legal. In May the Maine governor signed in a law to make same sex marriage legal. Then, in the very next election, the people repealed that law very similar to how it happened in California. Why? People have fear. Conservative people have fear that somehow this law means that now, gay marriage, gay families, and gay sex would have to be taught in schools.
Why do we have all this resistance to health care? We have it because there is this fear of big government. How big can a government get? People really get worried about that how big government could get. Actually, government can get huge. If you look at the country of Denmark its really interesting. Denmark has the largest taxation of any country in the world. Approximately 50% of your income goes to the government if you live in Denmark, sometimes higher than that. If you make a lot of money it can be as high as 68%, almost 70% of the income that you might make would go to the government. That’s big government. However, the other side of this is the government of Denmark supplies its citizens with fantastic benefits: fantastic health care, fantastic income support one gets if one is unemployed. The Danish government supplies many amazing things. What is so interesting to me about this is agencies have done surveys, and the agencies found that the Danish rate among the happiest people in the world. The Danish are one of the happiest people in the world and they’re the most heaviest taxed people in the world.
Somehow those two things, to our United States of America minds, don’t seem to go together. I saw this information about Denmark on Oprah so it has to be true. Oprah asked these Danish woman if this wasn’t socialism. Oprah asked what did they think about their country being socialist. The women said that they don’t really think of Denmark as being socialist. They looked at it as being civilized. It was civilized to have a body governing you, supplying your basic needs. Everyone seemed quite content to give the government this money because the Danish citizens feel like they’re getting so much for it.
As I said earlier, do we see ten percent unemployment or do we realize that unemployment has only risen about five percent, which is not really that much. If you consider all the press this recession has gotten it is out of proportion to the truth of what is happening. It’s just one twentieth that employment has dropped. However, I have been moved by the discussions going on about our economic crises because it’s a discussion about reassessing our values. What is valuable to us? Is it all this commercialism that we frequently thought about? Maybe community is very valuable to us. Maybe relationships are truly valuable to us. Maybe those are the true things, and those are things that don’t have monetary costs. Those things are hard to measure. They’re intangible. Maybe it is the intangible and the love that’s the most valuable thing, not the money and the processions. If I chose to look at it correctly it’s a very positive thing to see all the support that this community has rallied to give Rev. Larry. That is also moving for me. Many people are offering to go see him and be with him at this particular time. I think that is such an important, wonderful, healing issue because this is his family of choice. Our family of choice is the group of people that we have chosen to closely associate with. Most have biological families, and many of us had chosen to be away from them. However, our San Francisco congregation is a family of choice for many. We gather each week, we choose to be here. We gather here at special functions. We gather on holidays. We choose to be together. This is the “family” that we choose.
More conservative people think when we are in need, it’s our biological that has to rally. What I have experienced is when someone is in need their family of choice can also rally, maybe even more effectively, to give her or him the help, the support, and the love that he or she needs. That’s how I choose to look at Rev. Larry’s seeming illness, and that helps me feel better about it. I also see Rev. Larry’s openness to this as a shift for him. He wants these people to come and visit him even though they see him in a very weakened state, a very vulnerable state. Rev. Larry is a very proud person and a very strong person. He has always wanted people to see him as strong and confident, so it’s a shift for him and I believe that this shift is part of his healing. A Course In Miracles says “Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success.” (Tx.Or.Ed.18.41) I can get into a spiral of thinking that I am not doing that well around this issue of Rev. Larry being ill because I get sad about it, or I feel powerless about it. I can feel quite negative about it, but I am persevering and maybe that perseverance is one of my greatest victories in life. I am judging that I am not doing well but maybe simply the fact that I keep moving on and do the work here at the Community Miracles Center is actually some of the greatest work that I have done in life. Who is to judge? Who is to know? I feel much better thinking this is some of my greatest work then thinking that this is my greatest failure.
I would rather choose that we actually have an inability to judge how well we’re doing in life issues at any particular time. All we can judge is how we feel, and if we’re feeling low and bad then were thinking wrongly. We can offer that up to the Holy Spirit. We can choose other perceptions. We can feel good. I can feel good there’s a discussion going on in this country about same sex marriage. I can feel good about it when it gets legalized anywhere. Someone will continue the legal battle in California and Maine and eventually make it legal. However, again, its the discussion that people are having that’s important. Society is having a discussion about it, thinking about it, working with it and that a good thing. That’s so much better than other things that we may discuss. That’s an important issue that were discussing.
A Course In Miracles say’s this in a Workbook lesson “Relax for the rest of the practice period, confident that Your efforts, however meager, are fully supported by the strength of God and all His Thoughts. It is from Them your strength will come.” (Wk.Or.Ed.91.13) Sometimes our efforts seem meager. They don’t seem to be enough. However the Course is asking us to be okay with that. Rest with that. The strength comes from God. Simply keep making what efforts you can. Keep turning in that direction. It may seem like I am making, or we’re making, meager efforts to unite with Jesus or the Holy Spirit yet any effort in that direction is willingness and is wonderful. The extra strength will be provided by the Divine. We may think were making a meager effort to accept our goal of shinning the ego away, but any effort that we make in doing that is important, profound and good. The Divine steps in where we leave off. We may believe that we’re making a meager effort to release the strength of God but any little thought, any little prayer is good. We may think that we’re making a meager effort to be vigilant, but just having the thought that we should be vigilant is a step in the right direction. We may think that were making meager efforts to use judgment correctly, but any time we use judgment correctly we’re reinforcing its correct use. Finally, we may think that we are making a meager effort seeing our society as not fear based, but any effort to see our society in discussion and working through its fears is really good
I looked up “meager” in the dictionary. It says, “lacking richness, fertility, strength ... deficient in quantity or poor in quality.” We can be making meager efforts, efforts that seem deficient or poor in quality, but the importance is that we make the meager effort and move in that direction, because then the strength of God comes in.
I judge myself as I would have myself be. I judge myself as making good efforts even if they seem deficient. I judge myself as being loving and helpful. I judge everyone as making the best effort that they can make at that time and all of their efforts are supported by the strength of God.
I find that it has been a great gift for me to arrange visitors for Rev. Larry. Its wonderful. It gives me a sense that I am doing something because otherwise I feel so powerless. When someone appears to have a disease like this, you feel like you want to do something to help and you don’t know what you can do. Arranging visitors when he is home for long periods of time, alone, has been great. It has given me that sense that I am doing something. We can judge our government and think we’re not getting anywhere with the health care debate, or we can judge that we are getting somewhere with health care debate. There are bills on the Senate floor. There are bills on the House floor. Something is going to happen, and that is an incredible thing in and of itself. We can see the economic crises as something that is getting us to reassess our values as a society. Maybe we shouldn’t be judging our society on how many iPhones or Blackberry’s we can all have. Maybe we should be judging our society on the value of our relationships, our communities, on our families of choice, and the value of the love that we express.
Thank you. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the November 2009 (Vol. 23 No. 9) 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.