Monday, May 19, 2008

Undoing the Ego in the Big Apple

Leave it to Nouk Sanchez and Tomas Vieira, of Take Me To Truth fame, to have the unmitigated gall of doing a workshop on just such a topic, right here in New York City! Of course, it also happens to be the subtitle of their book.

As the organizer, I even had some reactions from friends--meant to be funny--who found out about the workshop and made a point of saying they were going to pass on undoing the ego. It is after all our favorite bauble, and until you become wholly clear that it is nothing--not to mention the cause of all our pain--all of us remain convinced it means giving up the world and our life. How ridiculous can you get! It is only from realizing, through often painful experience, that we did in fact trade our souls and our lives to the Devil, that we start to understand the horrendous cost, and the understanding may dawn that we are only giving up nothing for everything. The monster then is destined to collapse "into the nothingness from which it came" as the Course calls it, for only our belief upholds it.

At some level this part always reminds me of a conversation with a friend who was translating some medieval book on magic from Latin, forty years ago as I write this, in which the instructions for a certain magical ritual made it very clear that the adept was to in fact learn spells to control certain evil spirits, which they themselves had evoked to begin with. I thought that was hilarious at the time, and an interesting commentary on the human condition, but I was not ready to see then that this is what we all are doing all of our lives, leave alone being ready at that time to seriously learn to want to give it up.

However, once you realize you are looking for ways to find the exits from a burning building, you could do worse than to stumble into a workshop with Nouk & Tomas. Their uniquely dynamic family experience of learning the Course, as a couple, and then with their daughter, is quite unprecedented, and truly an inspiration to us all. Tomas's very extroverted, not to mention dramatic, personality is just the right vehicle for making the experience come to life in ways that allow us all to identify with it and become actively engaged in the process.

One of my favorite quips from Ken Wapnick, is that the only shortcut to doing the Course, is doing the Course, and Nouk and Tomas are dong it, living it and sharing the process with whoever is ready to get serious about their own work with the Course. Besides the fact that their presentation is absolutely engaging, and succeeded in holding the attention and participation of everyone in our workshop this weekend, I also found that they managed to do this in such a way as not to bring out the unhealed healers in the group. Many attempts to bring out the experiential dimension of our Course work in a group setting, be it on-line or in personal encounters, carry the risk of unleashing the unhealed healers in force, so that things deteriorate into people telling everyone else how to do the Course. Nouk and Tomas have just the right presentation, and are very alert to those kinds of pitfalls exactly because they have made all the mistakes in their own learning experience, and can share that and guide the session into some very rewarding exercises, some based on their own book, some based on Byron Katie's work.

Another gift that comes with the presentation of this dynamic duo is that their presentation is not heavy in Course language, so that even people who are not steeped in the Course are able tune in without much of a problem. Finally, amidst a lot of lightness and laughter there is a profound dedication to learning and living the Course, without one iota of compromise to its principles.

Their focus on the section on The Development of Trust, in the workshop, as much as in their book, can help many students in that very process, for the purpose of the section is to help us learn to trust that process, without underestimating the difficulties along the way. One common pitfall with this section is that people want to know where they are in the process, which can in and of itself become another detour, as Nouk shared in the form of some of her own setbacks. So that, while on one hand the section can provide some overall comfort and trust with the process, we derail that process if we invite our ego in to co-manage it, by falling into the trap of analyzing our own progress--all of which is heavily ego-bound activity. Having an up close and personal sharing of all these pitfalls can help many of us catching ourselves in such temptations more quickly, and therein lies the value of learning from others who are doing the work. Thus the final demonstration is again that teaching the Course is done by being a faithful student ourselves, and doing the work, and that practical common sense pervaded this workshop.

Copyright, © 2008 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.
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