I love today’s ACIM lesson, #288, “Let me forget my brother’s past today,” because it is the reminder that freedom is as simple as letting go. It never happened. The past is a story – a representation of what we think happened and, like all stories, it is a work of fiction. It is an interpretation of events based on perception and the real question is, “Does it serve me?” Ego-based perceptions are not healing. It is not helpful to cling to stories that enshroud our brothers (or ourselves!) in guilt. The Course says, “You can do much on behalf of your own healing and that of others if, in a situation calling for help, you think of it this way:
I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.”
To be truly helpful, I must be willing to “forget my brother’s past.” I must be willing to accept that my brother and I are one and that “I cannot come to You without my brother.” From last year’s writing:
One of our frequent discussions in our ACIM group is about the stories each of us makes up. Ultimately, we interpret events, assign meaning to them according to our perception and then create a story. (“There is no world apart from your ideas because ideas leave not their source, and you maintain the world within your mind in thought.”) The past is just an idea and frequently those ideas are wrap up in guilt, especially when we get it into our heads that someone has done something wrong. It never really happened.
Like so much of the Course, today’s lesson is about forgiveness. It is the request to let go of what I think happened.
One of the things I’ve noticed for myself is that events get filed away in my mind as a story or else I don’t remember them. If I didn’t tell myself a story about whatever happened, chances are really good that I won’t remember it. I’m not that good at remembering the past; not because I have a lousy memory but because once I let go of something, the details start to fade. Of course, like everyone, I have my stories – most of them centered around significant like events in one form or another, but I can be notoriously bad at fleshing out the details of what I think happened. I forgive and forget. Once the guilt has been washed off and the “hook” is gone, what’s the point?
Let me forget my brother’s past today.
This is the thought that leads the way to You, and brings me to my goal. I cannot come to You without my brother. And to know my Source, I first must recognize what You created one with me. My brother’s is the hand that leads me on the way to You. His sins are in the past along with mine, and I am saved because the past is gone. Let me not cherish it within my heart, or I will lose the way to walk to You. My brother is my savior. Let me not attack the savior You have given me. But let me honor him who bears Your Name, and so remember that It is my own.
Forgive me, then, today. And you will know you have forgiven me if you behold your brother in the light of holiness. He cannot be less holy than can I, and you can not be holier than he.
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Except for the part where we get invested in it. It can become our identity. But, you are not your disease, or your divorce, or your abusive relationship. I am not the loss of my business, the weight I’ve gained, or the death of my brother. Life happens, but it moves on and using events to define us keeps us stuck in the past. Such an identity keeps us jailed. When we fail to forgive, we imprison our brother – but in order for us to keep him locked up, we have to play jailer.
“Let me not cherish it within my heart, or I will lose the way to walk to You. My brother is my savior. Let me not attack the savior You have given me.”
In our Tuesday night group, we often mention sand mandalas. They symbolize this beautiful creation we’ve made by the stories we’ve told. But sand paintings are made to be destroyed, not kept. This image has helped several of us to willingly destroy the creation, to wipe out the picture we made. Somehow, it’s easier to let go of the stories using that analogy. Sand mandalas are teaching tools, a lesson in impermanence. As beautiful as the painting is, as useful as that story has been, it was never meant to be permanent. When it is complete, we wipe it out and make a new painting.
It’s strange how many of us think of forgiveness as a gift to the “other” somehow missing the fact that it is ourselves we free in the process. Without our brothers, we would miss the opportunity to heal the idea of separation. If I am not separate from God and you are not separate, then we can’t be separate from each other. Letting go what never happened is the path to oneness, to unity. “I cannot come to You without my brother.” To exclude another is to exclude ourselves.
So we wipe the sand mandala away because, in truth, it was just a story. We are letting go of what never happened in the first place.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.