Foundation for A Course in Miracles®
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Learning to Listen – Part 2 of 2

  • November 15, 2018

Volume 14 Number 3 September 2003
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Learning to Listen
Part 2 of 2

It is a psychotherapeutic axiom that one cannot understand when one judges. Judgment is the shadowy projection of separation, while understanding reflects the light of communication: the song of prayer that unites Father and Son, Creator and created, Cause and Effect. One can therefore say that learning to listen means learning to give up judgment. Indeed, in the pamphlet "Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process, Practice" Jesus makes letting go of judgment the sole requirement of successful psychotherapy, for it undoes the ego's defensive system of substituting form for content. It allows the therapist to listen to the patient, and hear the call to be proven wrong about the separation. In letting go the barriers of judgment that hinder communication, the ego is undone. The forms of the problem are seen through to the single content of separating and separate interests, and healing occurs as the therapist mirrors to the patient the shared interests of God's one Son: hearing the forgotten melody and remembering the Love that is our one Source. And so we are taught:

It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs.…because only then it can be understood that there is no order of difficulty in healing (P-3.II.6:1; 7:1).

What must the teacher do to ensure learning? What must the therapist do to bring healing about? Only one thing; the same requirement salvation asks of everyone. Each one must share one goal with someone else, and in so doing, lose all sense of separate interests. Only by doing this is it possible to transcend the narrow boundaries the ego would impose upon the self. Only by doing this can teacher and pupil, therapist and patient, you and I, accept Atonement and learn to give it as it was received (P-2.II.8).

Returning to our earlier point, as long as we relate to another out of personal need—the assertions of specialness—judgment is inevitable. Our separate interests become the reality, breeding the demand that these needs be met. The relationship now exists solely to satisfy these demands, and it becomes the ego's temple at whose shrine of specialness we all come with our offerings of judgment and special love, which, as A Course in Miracles states, is but a thin veil over hate. The other person has disappeared behind the clouds of scarcity and deprivation, and we no longer see or hear.

Without judgment, however, one can only listen, without imposing one's specialness needs and demands for satisfaction. One is still, quietly doing nothing but looking, waiting, and not judging (W-pII.1.4:1,3). And what is heard is one of two songs: the song of love's reflection, or the song that calls for it. Either way, our response is still love. But for us to hear these songs, and not the ego's song of specialness and hate, we need to be quiet within, to come without needs unto our brother. What better prayer to pass through our hearts and minds than this, adapted from the workbook, on how we approach God; in this case, how we approach God's Son—Christ and our Self:

Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what Christ is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your Self (adapted from W-pI.189.7).

"With nothing in our hands to which we cling, with lifted hearts and listening minds" (W-pI.140.12:1), we sit with our brother and listen, just as Jesus guides his psychotherapists, and all of us in our individual interactions:

…no good teacher uses one approach to every pupil. On the contrary, he listens patiently to each one, and lets him formulate his own curriculum; not the curriculum's goal, but how he can best reach the aim it sets for him.…There is Something in him that will tell you, if you listen. And that is the answer; listen. Do not demand, do not decide, do not sacrifice. Listen. What you hear is true (P-2.II.7:2-3; P-3.I.2:3-7; italics mine).

We now understand, having come to our brother without needs that distort our perception, that what appears to be viciousness is only fear (T-3.I.4:2), and is the ego's fear of the Holy Spirit 's Love. In the presence of His soundless song the sounds of our separate and special identity must dissolve. To the extent we believe in this identity we shall fear the melody of forgiveness that recalls to mind—literally—the song our Self still sings to Its Source. Thus it is that the ego in all of us has not only left the Presence of the song, but will attempt through its various and quasi-infinite special relationships to remain as far away as possible from its gentle call.

When the pain of being so far away from those dulcet sounds of love becomes too much to bear, we exclaim—to we-know-not-Whom—there must be a better way (T-2.III.3:5-6). The Holy Spirit's answer is to use the very same specialness designed to avoid love as the means for our return:

However unholy the reason you made them [special relationships] may be, He can translate them into holiness.…You can place any relationship under His care and be sure that it will not result in pain, if you offer Him your willingness to have it serve no need but His.…Do not, then, be afraid to let go your imagined needs, which would destroy the relationship. Your only need is His (T-15.V.5:3-4,7-8).

Thus, our special relationships, when used by the Holy Spirit , become our classrooms in which we learn to hear the forgotten song. What had been a road taking us away from love, is now seen as but a detour—an indirect way Home to be sure, but nonetheless a certain way because of the One walking with us. Framing our journey, our special loves and hates become the contours of our path, not to be judged or attacked, but gently accepted, for without them our way would be lost. That is the meaning of this statement from the text:

Concentrate only on this [your willingness], and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant.…The miracle of the holy instant lies in your willingness to let it be what it is. And in your willingness for this lies also your acceptance of yourself as you were meant to be (T-18.IV.2:4-6,8-9).

But for us to accept how we "were meant to be," we must first accept our defenses against that Self. Thus our shadow-draped ego self becomes the curriculum Jesus uses to teach us to remember Who we truly are.

It is one of the key components of forgiveness that our forgiveness of others—hearing the melody in them—forgives ourselves. I cannot see (or hear) in you what is not already present in me. Thus is every relationship another opportunity to heal and be healed, for the same are one. Again, from the pamphlet on Psychotherapy:

He who needs healing must heal.…Who else is there to heal? And who else is in need of healing?…God does not know of separation. What He knows is only that He has one Son.…The process that takes place in this relationship is actually one in which the therapist in his heart tells the patient that all his sins have been forgiven him, along with his own. What could be the difference between healing and forgiveness? (P-2.VII.1:3,5-6,11-12; 3:1-2)

In any given relationship, at any given instant, one of the two partners is more sane than the other, and it is the responsibility of that one to take the first step in hearing the underlying melody that calls for help, inviting the other to join in forgiveness' happy song of gratitude and peace:

Whoever is saner at the time the threat is perceived should remember how deep is his indebtedness to the other and how much gratitude is due him, and be glad that he can pay his debt by bringing happiness to both. Let him remember this, and say:

I desire this holy instant for myself, that I may share it with my brother, whom I love.

It is not possible that I can have it without him, or he without me.…

And so I choose this instant as the one to offer to the Holy Spirit, that His blessing may descend on us, and keep us both in peace (T-18.V.7:1-4,6).

The same holds for the psychotherapist:

The psychotherapist is a leader in the sense that he walks slightly ahead of the patient, and helps him to avoid a few of the pitfalls along the road by seeing them first. Ideally, he is also a follower, for One should walk ahead of him to give him light to see. Without this One, both will merely stumble blindly on to nowhere (P-2.III.1:1-3).

When we recognize we are listening to the wrong voice and hearing the wrong song, that is the time to "step back and let Him lead the way" (W-pI.155), that we may truly listen and hear. We then hear our brother's call for help behind the shadows of dissonance, and recognize the call for light that is our own as well, for the ego's fog of judgment has no power to conceal the resplendent light of forgiveness:

The light in them shines as brightly regardless of the density of the fog that obscures it. If you give no power to the fog to obscure the light, it has none.…You can remember this for all the Sonship.…To perceive the healing of your brother as the healing of yourself is thus the way to remember God.…And to give a brother what he really wants is to offer it unto yourself, for your Father wills you to know your brother as yourself. Answer his call for love, and yours is answered. Healing is the Love of Christ for His Father and for Himself (T-12.II. 2:1-2,5,9; 3:4-6).

The Holy Spirit’s healing call cannot be heard without our part:

Yet He needs a voice through which to speak His holy Word; a hand to reach His Son and touch his heart (P-2.V.5:6).

Thus does Jesus ask us to be with each other the way he is with us. When we recognize in people's attacks the desperate call for help; when we hear in their viciousness the underlying pain, who would not seek to reach out and touch the source of such pain with "the gentle hands of forgiveness," knowing it would be our own chains of guilt that would fall away, along with our brothers' (T-19.IV-C.2:5)? As Prospero, Shakespeare's final hero, says near the end of The Tempest:

Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick.
Yet, with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance. (V,i)

Jesus asks us to take the "rarer action" of forgiveness: to listen instead of judge, to hear instead of attack, to forgive instead of seeking vengeance. Thus does what we conceived in sin, guilt, and fear becomes transformed into harmonies of forgiveness, love, and healing; the cacophonous world of hate gives way to the sweet sounds of music; the melody of love we sing first to each other metamorphoses as the eternal song we have always sung to God. And our classroom of relationships radiates the star-lit temple of our and our brothers' mutual healing:

Think what the joining of two brothers really means. And then forget the world and all its little triumphs and its dreams of death. The same are one, and nothing now can be remembered of the world of guilt. The room becomes a temple, and the street a stream of stars that brushes lightly past all sickly dreams. Healing is done, for what is perfect needs no healing, and what remains to be forgiven where there is no sin? (P-2.VII.8)