Part II of IV — A Change in Perception
Several times in my life, I suffered through the holidays. One Christmas, after a last-minute change of plans, I found myself feeling abandoned and alone in an empty house. Other times, the sight of families and couples who seemed blissfully joyous and full love of love magnified that empty dark hole inside of me. Over time, I began to dread the holidays, and a feeling of gloom enveloped me like a dark oil slick over my entire being.
During those years, I was at the effect of my thoughts, and those thoughts were not my friend. Until someone introduced me to A Course in Miracles, I did not know that all of the power I needed to be happy was right inside of me.
Years of cognitive therapy had taught me to examine my belief system and understand that my (irrational, illogical, or faulty thoughts) caused me to feel bad. But that was only a part of the equation. The problem was much deeper. There was a part of my mind that the Course calls the ego, and that part of my thinking had one mission. To make me so lonely and separated that I would not want to be alive.
My ego was the scanner that saw everyone as blissfully joyous and convinced me that the universe was withholding that happiness from me. And it was true, except I was the victim who was withholding happiness from myself. Once I learned that my ego was continually chattering mindless thoughts like, “Oh look at that happy family, too bad you screwed up, and now you’re all alone,” or “That couple is so lucky, they are holding hands and madly in love. You’ll never meet anyone,” I was able to break free.
Once I was aware of these ego-based thoughts and how they made me feel, I had to do the more in-depth work of facing my guilt and shame. A Course in Miracles had taught me that I was at the effect of my past. I knew this was true, and I committed many years of my life to heal old wounds that kept me in addictive patterns. I was then able to benefit from better thinking.
First of all, I didn’t know anything about the people I was watching. Those families could have been miserable, overwhelmed, and spending more money than they had. Those happy couples could have been out with their lovers while their spouses were at home. I mused at my tunnel vision. But, even beyond that, I discovered something even more profound.
As I caught on to how my ego was causing me to feel bad over others’ happiness, I decided to give myself a wonderful gift.
A Course in Miracles taught me that everything I need to feel good is internal, not external. We all know that all the friends, spouses, money, and stuff can never make a miserable person happy. And an enlightened person will not be pulled into darkness without those things. I wanted to find the light, and it was provided to me.
First, rather than envy those folks, my deepest desire was for them to enjoy the holidays and the love they shared. Watching them made me happy, and if they were pleased, I could be too.
Second, rather than continue an ego-based illusion of lack, I could become the joy that I witnessed. Instead of looking at what I didn’t have, I could become the love that I craved. I reached out to other people who were lonely and made plans to shop or dine together. I focused on helping others feel better — rather than the me, me, me, approach that never worked.
I attempted to offer something to everyone with whom I came into contact. Maybe a compliment, an impromptu conversation, a warm smile. I offered acts of kindness without a motive. I listened, and when there was a void, I tried to fill it in some way. The more I gave of effort, time, and money, the more the empty hole inside me was filled with good vibes.
Third, the Course taught me that I am never truly alone. There is a spiritual presence within me that is always available. I like to call that part of me, love. When I remember to access that love rather than the ego’s daunting voice, a feeling of connection ensues. I have learned to ask that loving voice for help and to listen to that guidance. Sometimes the conversations are quite humorous because they are so logical and rational.
If the holidays are hard for you, you can change all of that. If you decide to be the joy that you want, you will learn to act accordingly. It might be difficult at first, like getting rid of your favorite pair of shoes that have been too tight, or like getting out of the dirt and taking a nice long swim. But once you emerge from the bondage of your past, you never want to go back again.
Every moment of every day, there is someone who needs your love. By being the love that you want, your holiday blessings will be abundant. Most important, you will never have to feel alone.