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Uncorking the Bottle
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

IN OUR QUEST for a fulfilling life, we often look to success as our touchstone for happiness. Success in finances, in career, in relationships makes for a happy life -- or not. Studies show that some of us are hardwired for happiness, others not so much; but all of us have potential for happiness.

Sculpture by Daniel Hourdé, Paris, spring 2006. Photo by Danielle Voirin.
Astrologically, Saturn's relationship with our natal Sun and their placement shows how easily achievement will come to us, but those people who seem to be on R&R lifetimes aren't necessarily happier than those that face obstacles and challenges. Money and power look attractive to us but that path comes with its own pitfalls, and provide us myriad examples of stumbles and upsets among the rich and famous, proving that happiness and success are not the same things. Happiness is less about circumstance than about attitude.

Life, in case you haven't looked at it this way, can be defined as a daily series of interesting and informative mistakes -- you'll make at least one today, probably several. You'll pass by opportunities that lay just beyond the door of acceptance of authentic self, by filtering incoming information through learned beliefs and biases, habitual response patterns and guilt. Guilt is the debris that we pile up in our subconscious to trip over in our conscious world -- it drives our activity and attitudes like a ghost in the machine.

Guilt begins early in our childhood; this is less a natural instinct than one we're taught by repeated incidents of shaming and ridicule, it's the equivalent of withholding love. It's a critical program that, once installed quickly becomes self-propelling. It's the beginning of the false life we lead, the false voice we listen to. It's the author of "good" and "bad" and that black/white mentality that drives us at our lowest level of awareness. Guilt is the operating system behind most of what's wrong in the world because it colors our thought system to keep us in fear, and fear has led us to warring -- internally by sabotaging our opportunities for uncluttered consciousness and externally, for example, in our nations blind dependence on militarism.

A Course in Miracles tells us that the ego, that part of us that considers itself separate from others and superior in its authority, speaks only the language of guilt and that, "Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment. The ego is quite literally a fearful thought." The ego understands no nuance, no compassion, it steps on the neck of its enemies to get a bit higher -- ego's good/bad, black/white dialogue is at war with the higher angels of evolution. As the fear of punishment is what the old paradigm patriarchy model is based upon, the 'stern Daddy' authoritarianism that orders civilization by watching for a misstep and penalizing, if we are to move into a new model we must learn how to let go of guilt.

Back in 1977, Richard Bach wrote a lovely little book called Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Since I haunt used bookstores, I pick up copies to give away, and have for years. 'Illusions' is ageless, it's simple and profound. If you have it, read it again -- if you don't, get it; you'll be glad you did. It breaks the hold 3D has on our minds and gives us another way to think about life. I used to call this 'coming up to speed'; I suppose that's still how I think of it. Unless we can open ourselves to other ways of perceiving what we consider our reality, we can't get off the karmic loop that keeps us in this self-sensitizing project of playing out repeated patterns until we exhaust them (and ourselves).

Bach says it this way, urging us to embrace our activity without judging it and collecting an impressive junk-yard of guilt in our subconscious:

You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.

The world is your exercise-book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or to tear some pages.

As A Course in Miracles has it, the ego-mind is unable to accept what it has judged as its own flaws or dark side -- its exercise pages, if you will -- so it separates them from its sense of righteousness and projects its guilt out onto others. If you don't think guilt is such a big nut to crack, take a look around you today. You'll see what guilt has given us in every headline and hear it in every conversation. George Bush (the most utterly un-self-reflective person I've ever witnessed, perhaps owing to his 12th house planets) still has it in his mind that the 'Axis of Evil', namely Iran, needs to be bombed into bits. There are a number of political reasons for this, but the one he sells the public is that their desire for nuclear energy represents a nuclear danger in WMD style. They are scary people and now they want scary bombs. This is projection of the first water since a Google search will quickly show you that WE are a nuclear danger, responsible for renewed nuclear proliferation around the globe. ACIM tells us that, "Anything that engenders fear is divisive because it obeys the law of division." You've heard guilt expressed before in national discussions, perhaps in this way -- "us vs. them."

Another example of the many aspects of guilt at work can be found in Elliot Spitzer's recent fall from grace. The Governor of New York has been spending time with expensive hookers; this would probably not have been so big a deal if he hadn't earned the title of "Elliot Ness," a fiery reformer, going after corruption and crime and making potent enemies in that hub of power, New York City.

This event resulted in the loss of a powerful voice for corporate oversight in our nation, and because we are Puritanical in our illusions about those who govern, the outcry has caused Spitzer to step down. Humankind is quick to jump on hypocrisy, yet who among us leads a life so authentic to our named values that we can't be branded with the same iron?

The concept of schadenfreude, pleasure in another's defeat, plays in our psyche when the 'mighty fall' and get their just deserts -- compassion flies out the window when we think appropriate punishment is at hand. We don't wait for the details -- we judge. Will we do the same when we, ourselves, stumble? Or will we suddenly 'get religion', citing the New Testament's Jesus as the arbiter of what is moral in this regard when he said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone."

Yes, we seem to be a little schizophrenic as a species, don't we? What's going on in our head defines at least a portion of our ability to be happy as well as our ability to be successful, and it also defines how we hoist ourselves on our own petard. A Course in Miracles puts it this way: "Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real." If what is going on in our head has us a perpetual victim, which we will certainly be until we come to terms with self-forgiveness and release of guilt, then please realize that we can change our mind at any time. Look at life differently and it will become a different experience. A Course in Miracles defines a miracle as a shift of perspective, freeing up psychic energy to produce different results -- we are due miracles of liberation and authenticity when we allow our perceptions to expand.

We've talked about letting go of baggage in the last few months, in anticipation of coming into new awareness. The heaviest baggage we carry is not that of what's been done to us, but what we've done and not owned. Defining our guilt is difficult because we hide it so well, much as is the influence of our natal Pluto who hosts our shadow self. We self-protect against dwelling on our history of wrongdoing, and seldom think about hurts we've done to others thoughtlessly, mindlessly. But we are creatures run by guilt, and we've stored it all up in our subconscious mind where it threatens to leap out and gobble our good. It's no wonder we project guilt at others; we want to distance ourselves the best way we can. But that's hardly the best way; projection keeps us in a loop of unhappy, unloving and unsuccessful behavior.

We can begin that clearing process, uncork the bottle of energy that has collected in our psyche as guilt and shame, by learning to take responsibility for everything that happens to us. Everything. In another Richard Bach offering, "Running From Safety," he clarifies the concept. "If it's never our fault, we can't take responsibility for it. If we can't take responsibility for it, we'll always be its victim." Self-pity, retaliation, and revenge are the stepchildren of a victim mentality, and that dark mindset of anticipated strife and failure is the direct consequence of unattended guilt.

Guilt is a complete waste of consciousness; self-judgment and flawed analysis gone dark. It contaminates our field of intention, bringing us manifestations that we didn't consciously choose but which we must feel, secretly, that we deserve. It keeps us fighting against invisible landmines and limiting our own progress. If life is, indeed, a practice page -- a place in which to discover all the options we are offered -- then whatever we do is for our own discovery. Learning to quickly forgive ourselves and others can help limit guilt and allows us to open up to new experiences, moving us into a consciousness of entitlement. If we push self-pity off a cliff, we discover we're entitled to joy. If we decide against a long planned vendetta, we welcome in the possibility that love and warmth and pleasure has our name on it. If we learn to recognize guilt when it bites us and learn to identify the ego voice when we get into fear, we can change our minds and welcome in miracles.

This line, from Auntie Mame, says it all: "Live, live, live! Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." I guarantee you, if you're feeling lean and unhappy, thwarted from realizing your dreams and blocked from achieving your good, guilt is probably the culprit. Work up some courage and make a list of old errors, just to give them some air -- don't be afraid, even if they make you wince. Look at them and realize that they were from a practice page long ago discarded. That's not you anymore; that was a learning phase. You know better now, that page was successful in teaching you what you needed to know. Thank it for all it accomplished in you and let it go. If apologies are due, make them -- you'll feel a weight lift off your heart; if the person is no longer available to you, do a little ritual to call in their Angel (we all have one) and intend that your true feelings be made known to them. It's that simple.

We're purging the old stuff -- and nothing is older than guilt; trace it back to Cain and Abel, the heirs of a punishing God, resulting in the first murder, the first assault due to jealousy and vengeance. We're birthing a new concept about God/Goddess, about ourselves and we're bringing ancient darkness into the Light. Today IS a new day, a new practice page. We're poised on a new set of choices -- make happy ones.

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