|What follows is an interchange between
a student and Dr. Kenneth Wapnick during the
workshop titled Words and Thoughts.
|Q: I used to have migraines for a long time. I got tested and now I can’t have gluten and corn and blah, blah; boring. I was thinking, “Well, it’s allergies, so who am I allergic to?” So I’m working on things about making judgments.… But can you be allergic or am I making it up? Can I not be allergic in five minutes if I decide not to?
Kenneth: Yeah, you could, but why? What’s wrong with being allergic? Just don’t make a big deal about having allergies. I mean bodies are going to have something. It’s always something, so just don’t make a big deal about it.
Q: Well it’s annoying to my husband when we go in a restaurant and I say, “Um, can I just have lettuce with plain shrimp; no salt, no pepper.…” Now, that’s annoying [laughter] even to me. I’d like to not have that, but for now I have it.
Kenneth: The goal of this course is not that you be ego-free, and the goal of this course is not that your body function absolutely perfectly. The goal of this course is that when your ego acts up or your body is imperfect in its functioning you say, “What’s the big deal? That’s what bodies do, and I’m not a body.” When you agonize over it, when you find it frustrating, when you fight with it you’re making a big deal about it. The ego loves that!
Think of the world macrocosmically and the body microcosmically as a gigantic distraction device; its purpose is to distract us from the mind. That’s the purpose—to make us mindless and convince us that we are mindless, because if I don’t have a mind I can’t change it. And if I can’t change it, my original decision for the ego is preserved forever. That’s the goal; that’s the ego strategy for why it made the world. The Course says purpose is everything. That’s the purpose. We’re born into bodies to continually distract us from the mind. So we’re always mindless, and then we make up problems; we make up illnesses; we make up a world that has all these noxious stimuli in it so that we always focus on this.
Well, here we are as bodies and we’re just not going to snap our fingers and decide we’re not bodies anymore, despite what the Course says. It’s true, we’re not ready for that. We don’t go from the bodily nightmare state that we’re all in to Heaven, so we take little steps. The little steps are: I say, “All right, this is my body. I’ll take care of it, but I don’t have to make a big deal about it. And I don’t have to continually define myself by my body, whether my body functions perfectly and I’m so proud of it, or my body functions imperfectly and I’m devastated by it.” So those intervening steps, the gentle dreams the Course talks about are the experiences of ourselves as bodies, but we don’t take them so seriously.
Again, do whatever you have to do to kind of minimize pain and discomfort, physically and psychologically, but stop making a big deal about it. Go to doctors if that’s your treatment of choice or the magic you like, or take this pill, or change your diet, or do whatever you’re going to do, but stop making it front and center because that’s what the ego wants. It not only gets you by making up problems and diseases and conditions, but then you obsess about the solution for it. You spend all your time on the internet researching, or reading this book, or going to this person or that person. And I’m not saying not to do any of that if it’s helpful, but you’re more than your condition; you’re more than your allergy [laughter].
Do you want written on your tombstone, “Here I lie. I had an allergy. [laughter] I couldn’t eat gluten.” I mean is that what you want to be remembered by? But that’s the issue—don’t make your conditions—psychological or physical—be the be-all and end-all of your existence. That’s what a little willingness means. It doesn’t mean you give up your body and you snap your fingers and say, “I’m going to have whatever I want and I’ll be fine!” Maybe that’ll happen, maybe it won’t, but if you really want the peace of God, learning how to eat gluten again is not going to give you the peace of God [laughter], alright? But learning how to be peaceful about not being able to eat gluten, that will bring you much, much closer to the peace of God because you’re learning not to give the outer world power over you. So it’s okay if you have a cold; it’s okay if you have cancer; it’s okay if you have special dietary restrictions; it’s okay! It’s okay if you’re a phony! Just don’t agonize over it and don’t define yourself by that. That’s the key thing. That’s what, I think, Perls was telling you. [Psychoanalyst Fritz Perls’ response to person who accused himself of being a phony: “So what’s wrong with being a phony!”]
Stop making a big deal about what’s not a big deal. That doesn’t mean indulge yourself, and it doesn’t mean tolerate your illnesses. It simply means recognizing the purpose they have served to distract you from your mind. Use that same illness, that same symptom as a way of getting you back to your mind. Outsmart your ego. Use your body and whatever is going on with your body—whatever problems are there—as a way of saying, “This is how I get back to my decision-making mind.”
So the line I quoted previously, and I quote it very, very often: the world you see—the allergy I have—is “an outside picture of an inward condition” (T-21.in.1:5). Well, if I do that then the very thing my ego used to hurt me now becomes the vehicle for helping me get back to my mind. And what’s important is not that I use my mind to correct my condition. That won’t get you home. It might get you a happier body but it will not help you change your mind. Use your mind not to change your body; use your mind to change itself about your body, that “I could see peace instead of this” (Lesson 34). I could have an allergy, I could have cancer, I could have a sprained ankle, I could have whatever the condition is and still be peaceful. Just imagine what the learning gain in that is; it’s astronomical.
But if you use your mind just to change your body you’re getting nowhere; you’re just giving yourself a happier dream in the world, which means it roots you still further in the world. When people talk about things like The Secret, where you use your mind to get what you want, I mean there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not going to bring you home. Sure the mind made the world and the mind made you poor so the mind could make you rich if you do some fancy, schmancy stuff with your mind, but that’s not your right mind. Yeah, you could learn to walk on hot coals and not hurt your feet, so? The road to Heaven is not paved with hot coals [laughter].
What you want to learn is to stop making a big deal about the world and the body. That’ll really save you thousands of years if you could learn that I could be at peace regardless of what is happening with my body. And that doesn’t mean not to do things to make your body feel better—I mean it’d be stupid not to do that—but don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t define yourself by your illness and the remedy for it. Remember, you want to use everything in the world as a vehicle for getting you out of the world into your mind. That’s the value of the world.
So again, the world I see, the world I’m making real, the world I’m giving power over me to take my peace away is “an outside picture of an inward condition” (T-21.in.1:5), which was my mind’s decision to throw love away, therefore not leaving me in a state of peace. I project that out and say the cause of my not being peaceful is my allergy, or this condition or that condition. And now I say, that’s not true! I could still be peaceful, and if I use the medical condition as a way to get me back to that decision-making mind that can choose differently, that saves me a thousand years.
That’s what that line that I kind of just alluded to means: what the ego made to hurt, the Holy Spirit uses to heal. So I need do nothing about my allergy. I need do something about my mind that thinks I’m defined by my allergy. And when I practice that, then my body will do whatever it has to do to make itself feel better, whether it’s change my diet, change a medical intervention, or whatever it is. But that’s what’s important—that I do something about my mind that thinks I am defined by my allergy.
Excerpt from Words and Thoughts