Introduction to this three part series
Let me say here that a Holy Relationship need not be romantic. It is not exclusive but inclusive. It may be between two or more people. In contrast, the special relationship is exclusive.
There are at least 3 phases of relationship reform within the ego dream. Remember Jesus tells us that relationships are our primary TEACHING-LEARNING experience. They are the most important vehicle required for our final return to Love as our one, shared and Holy Self. If our relationships remain special, then our false-self concept, beliefs and values will be based on fear (special love) and not on perfect Love. As a result, we will continue to experience suffering and conflict.
The first phase of relationship is one in which humanity has valued and experienced since the beginning of the dream of separation; SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS. Nearly every relationship in the world is SPECIAL until it has been divinely re-purposed with Holy Spirit. Special Love is fear in disguise. And this is why it seems that the “love” in our human relationships can change and end. Yet…Perfect Love is changeless Love. Love without fear, without attack. This is WHAT we are as the one, shared and Holy Self. We won’t really know this with conviction until we commit to undoing special love with Holy Spirit. Nearly everyone in the world values special love and special relationships.
The second phase: By necessity, the desire for Holy Relationship involves the Divine UNDOING by Holy Spirit, of our beliefs and values, especially the false-self concept. The mistaken concept of special love must be healed in order to return our awareness to our Holy Self. The second phase of relationship reform involves partner #1 desiring to heal the relationship from a special to a Holy Relationship. However, partner #2 is not interested. In this case the two partners have separate relationship goals and do not share a truly common purpose with Holy Spirit. This is often the perfect classroom for partner #1 to use every emotional trigger as an opportunity to extend forgiveness, and accept the Atonement. It is also an excellent opportunity for partner #1 to begin to authentically “show up” for themselves, applying the “Seven Key Principles of Holy Relationship”
The third phase is where two (or more) partners agree to join with Holy Spirit in Holy Relationship. They agree to commit to a truly common purpose with Spirit. And that is to awaken from the false-self and its dream of separation. This is an agreement to undo separation as special love which entails the divine undoing by Holy Spirit, of our beliefs and values, especially the false-self concept.
This is a three part series where I (Nouk) share my own experience and lessons in having traveled through the various phases of relationship transition from special to Holy.
PART ONE: is the transition from a very special, toxic and codependent relationship with Tomas…to a profoundly Holy Relationship. It features the “phase of disorientation” which Jesus speaks of in Chapter 17, Section 5.
PART TWO: explains my own experience of a Phase Two relationship and the lessons I gained from it (many people on the ACIM path may relate to this).
PART THREE: features my own and my partner Daniel’s experience in an advanced Holy Relationship. What to look forward to!
PART ONE – Nouk & Tomas’ Miraculous Story
Like most of us, Tomas and I wanted to be loved. We longed to be respected, cherished, accepted, and loved unconditionally. In other words, we desired a changeless and everlasting Love that we had never experienced, yet knew deep down was possible.
We met in 1984, after each having experienced a series of broken relationships. We both had fairly “normal” childhoods—with the usual themes of emotional abuse, betrayal, abandonment, and then speckled with the occasional moments of connection. As children, most of us generally remain “unseen” by our parents despite the best of their intentions.
Sadly, we grow up to be unseen children masquerading as adults, still playing out the same childhood dynamics in an effort to seek the love and recognition in our relationships which we never received from our parents or caretakers. The result is that we grow up not knowing who we really are, or having any sense of innate worth.
Unless we are raised by ascended masters in a family who see us as the divine beings we inherently are and teach us to believe in what is beyond the ego’s illusory world, we will, as adults, continue the external search for love that seemed to be so elusive to us as youngsters—always just out of reach. In other words, as we age we continue to seek the Love we didn’t experience as children. From this place of lack, it is no wonder that we are always trying to get love from our worldly relationships—to compensate for that which was missing in our frustrated or somewhat unsatisfying relationship with our parents.
In the sphere of romance, we seek an idealized partner, hoping, and in some cases even demanding, that this soulmate exalt us just as we wanted our mother and father to adore us. We erroneously assume that he or she will automatically—and spontaneously—“see” our Spirit—hence, know who we truly are—and forevermore reflect our state of absolute innocence in all their loving actions towards us.
Tomas and I, indeed, made that very assumption, setting unrealistic expectations for one another from the outset. We were convinced when we first got together that our special, romantic love would be eternal and that this relationship was going to meet all our “needs” for sure! Oops . . . we certainly didn’t have a clue what we were in for. We didn’t have the awareness back then to even pose the essential question: “What is this relationship for?”
Neither Tomas nor I had discovered our one, shared Holy Self yet. Accordingly, we were following a longstanding psychological pattern: We each were looking to the other as the means to fulfill our selfish desires, namely a romantic partner to give us the love we so desperately wanted.
We came to realize in hindsight, that it’s always the false self (the ego) that sets this dynamic up—the saboteur with the unconscious mantra, “seek and do not find!” But, at the time, Tomas and I were entirely unaware of its sinister workings. To outwit or overcome the ego’s insidious trappings requires spiritual help, tools, and an uncompromising commitment. But that learning came later for us!
Let me bring you back to the beginning. Our relationship was born on a balmy evening in 1984. As we lay on the warm sand of a tropical beach, complete with twinkling stars, we were both inspired to express our deeply cherished intent. Our mutual goal was to experience real, changeless and indestructible Love—a Love that was eternal and that could never be threatened. The vow we exchanged was this: “No matter what and no matter who might seem to come between us, let us never abandon each other.” As we spoke those words in unison, our powerful commitment appeared to reverberate throughout the universe.
While we lay on this deserted beach in the quiet of the evening, making our vow, a stunning phenomenon occurred. A shimmering pink light which appeared to beam out from the heavens, flashed upon us…bathing our faces in undeniable grace. For a miraculous moment, Tomas and I beheld the breathtaking face of Christ in each other. Tears began rolling down our cheeks as we caught a glimpse of the sheer magnitude of this commitment to experience a changeless Love that could never be threatened.
Setting the Trap
I am reminded of what Jesus tells us in the Course about how when the pupil is ready the teacher appears. Tomas and I were both pupil and teacher for each other simultaneously.
“Certain pupils have been assigned to each of God’s teachers, and they will begin to look for him as soon as he has answered the Call. They were chosen for him because the form of the universal curriculum that he will teach is best for them in view of their level of understanding. His pupils have been waiting for him, for his coming is certain. Again, it is only a matter of time. Once he has chosen to fulfill his role, they are ready to fulfill theirs. Time waits on his choice, but not on whom he will serve. When he is ready to learn, the opportunities to teach will be provided for him.” M-2.1.
Just before the date of our approaching marriage (three years before commencing our journey in A Course in Miracles), I decided to establish a ground rule for our future life together. Feeling strongly that when one makes a romantic commitment to another, one also makes a commit to monogamy, I told Tomas: “If you ever cheat on me, I will need to end our relationship; in fact, I will initiate a divorce immediately.”
Looking back, I see I was consumed—obsessed, if you will—with my notion of what a romantic partnership should be. I could not fathom how anyone could make a serious loving commitment, but then intentionally—or unintentionally—ignore that promise and even go so far as to engage in extramarital flirtations or sex. For me, matrimony and infidelity were mutually exclusive. My stance was crystal clear to Tomas and he willingly agreed to comply with my condition. We went on to marry soon after in 1987, and our precious daughter Rikki was born the following year.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the provision that I had set for us was about to boomerang and literally act against us over time. I had unwittingly set a trap with my conditions on Love. In attempting to protect our partnership from potential harm, I inadvertently brought about the very threat I had so hoped to avoid. I did not know this truth back then: whatever we fear, we ultimately attract. Unbeknownst to me, I was creating and attracting the very damaging and dysfunctional relationship I so desperately wanted to avoid.
Despite our honorable intent, our relationship was rapidly falling apart and by 1990, only six years after committing to our sacred vow, our relationship was on the rocks. In an attempt to try to save our relationship through a frenzy of counseling and research, I came across A Course in Miracles and felt, without a doubt, that this Course presented the perfect vehicle that would teach us the means by which we could experience the changeless Love we so yearned for, yet had consistently sabotaged.
Most importantly, the Course introduced us to the possibility of achieving a Holy Relationship, which represents a Love that can never wane or die. The purpose of a relationship such as this is the undoing of the false and separate self, the elimination of fear and guilt—and the experience of True union as the one, shared Holy Self.
This is the opposite of the purpose of our worldly relationships, which the Course calls “special relationships.” The ego uses the special relationship to reinforce fear and guilt, thereby ensuring the perpetuation of separation. Special relationships are nothing more than the ego’s destructive substitute for our original relationship with our brothers and God.
The Course further illustrates just why our relationships with partners, friends and family often start out loving, only to frequently disintegrate over time. In its Preface, there is a passage that speaks of the “scarcity principle” that governs our world of illusions. Speaking about the ego’s version of ambivalent love it aptly states, “we seek in others what we feel is wanting in ourselves. We ‘love’ another in order to get something ourselves. That, in fact, is what passes for love in the dream world. There can be no greater mistake than that, for love is incapable of asking for anything.”ACIM, Pref. xi
Trial by Fire – From Special to Holy Relationship
While I enthusiastically embraced the Course from the outset, Tomas initially felt a very real threat—his false-self was about to be greatly challenged. His response in those early months of my total immersion in studying the Course was to take off to the jungles of Papua New Guinea for three months. This left me alone at home to continue learning this new and radical teaching material.
There were no study groups and my family and friends at the time thought I was going nuts. Moreover, I must admit, back then I did misinterpret much of what the Course was teaching; so many misunderstandings occurred. Accordingly, I remember this to be a particularly fearful and isolating period for me. At one point, I momentarily gave validity to the doubt of my loved ones and even began to question my own sanity in following this new path. Yet for all the mistakes Tomas and I made, we were kept safe as we learned to recognize and surrender each of them to the Holy Spirit to be divinely corrected.
During that time we were undergoing much change at the level of “form,” which included the decision to sell our home. With Tomas away, this left me to deal with initiating the sale process, although just before he went on vacation, he arranged for a realtor to visit me the following week.
When that morning came, I was looking out the kitchen window and was struck by a most unbelievable sight. I saw a man slowly walking toward our front door with a briefcase and what appeared to be the same green book that had recently become the meaning of my world. “Was he really carrying A Course in Miracles? Am I delusional?” A million thoughts and questions burned through my mind.
When I opened the door, there was an unmistakable moment of deep recognition between us. We both entered a Holy Instant together as we met. All pretenses fell away and we beheld the Christ as one. We knew each other. There was an undeniable feeling that we had agreed to accomplish something remarkable in this lifetime, although consciously, we didn’t recall the details. This déjà vu feeling was overwhelming. This moment of synchronistic collision really catapulted my faith and trust, helping me to believe that I was not insane, but that life instead was playing out perfectly.
“Each teaching-learning situation involves a different relationship at the beginning, although the ultimate goal is always the same; to make of the relationship a holy relationship, in which both can look upon the Son of God as sinless.”…“Therefore, the plan includes very specific contacts to be made for each teacher of God. There are no accidents in salvation. Those who are to meet will meet, because together they have the potential for a holy relationship. They are ready for each other.” M-3.1:2,5-8
Daniel the realtor and I thought that he had come to help sell our house, but the Holy Spirit had a far more profound purpose for our meeting. We formed an immediate friendship as we both marveled at the synchronistic meeting of two, previously lonely and isolated Course students.
To my surprise, Daniel shared that his wife at the time, just like Tomas, was reluctant to delve into the Course, which left him pretty much on his own with this new and seemingly challenging thought system. I remember feeling the most immense gratitude for this man coming into my life. Now I had a fellow traveler to “live” this teaching with.
Daniel and I would meet up every few days to study the lessons and work through the beginning of a great “undoing” of so much of what we had previously believed and valued. We were beginning to see the many false-idols we had and for me, it was an intense, emotional roller coaster ride. It was such a relief though to be able to bare my soul in this friendship without fear of attack. So much repressed baggage came up and I was so grateful that Daniel allowed me to express without any judgment, blame or shame.
During those three months of Tomas’ absence, Daniel and I became closer. Yet I felt a growing feeling of unease. There was a problem. A shocking thing had surfaced that I was totally at a loss to explain. I realized that I was becoming attracted to this fellow student and that the attraction threatened my entire value system.
It was an absolute breach of the condition that I put on Tomas at the outset of our marriage. I was besieged with confusion and guilt even though I had not cheated on Tomas. The mere fact that I felt an attraction to someone other than my husband was enough to spin me out. “Now what do I do?” was my heart-felt question to Spirit. And my answer came almost immediately: “Tell Daniel the truth and allow Spirit to guide you.”
So at our next meeting, I summoned the courage to push through my extreme embarrassment and told Daniel that I was feeling an attraction to him despite still loving my wonderful husband. His response was not what I expected or wanted to hear. He divulged that he was feeling a mutual attraction and was in turmoil and confusion, as well.
Thankfully, Tomas was due back from his three month long trekking vacation in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, a few days later. In spite of the terror I felt, I decided that I would need to openly tell him of this attraction I had for Daniel, even if in doing so, I would jeopardize our relationship. I’d learned enough by now that my safest path was always to be totally honest and express my emotional vulnerability, rather than to defend it. As long as I was one hundred percent truthful, I would be safe.
The day Tomas returned I couldn’t help but blurt out that I had something extremely important to tell him that just couldn’t wait, despite his urgent desire to unpack his bag and to take a shower. I was so afraid; nevertheless, I sat with Tomas and shared what seemed for me to be something that could possibly end our relationship. Crying, I told him the whole story about developing an attraction for Daniel. But nothing could have prepared me for what came next.
Tomas began to laugh and laugh; his laughter escalated until I couldn’t help but join him. Then, in the next minute, he blurted, “Have I got something to tell you!”
In a surreal moment that seemed to stand completely apart from time, he told me that while we were married he had had not just one affair, but three! I heard him speak; yet in me, there was a strange sense of peace. Not one judgment arose in my mind and I could not locate a single negative emotion.
Then suddenly and unexpectedly, I fell on the floor in raucous laughter only to find Tomas had fallen beside me. We both dissolved into a joined state of hilarious communion; it was a truly Holy Instant where all seeming sins disappeared and what remained was only pure innocence, as infinite and changeless Love.
Profound forgiveness took place both for me and Tomas. In that Holy Instant, our authentic and Holy Relationship began . . . six years after we exchanged our original vow that starry night to discover the nature and purpose of changeless Love.
We had asked for this experience of a Love that could never be threatened, but we had no idea at the time that everything we’d learned about love – as special love –had to be completely un-learned. Until that moment of total forgiveness between us, Tomas and I had experienced the classic “special relationship,” as characterized by the Course—complete with unrecognized codependency and compulsory constraints, all of which were the ego’s utterly insane defenses against truth and, therefore, against Love.
I instantly realized I had set the stage for Tomas’s ego to cut loose perfectly by telling him earlier there was a single provision that could not be broken: Stray and it’s over! What I was really threatening him with before our marriage was “Cheat and I will withdraw my love for you.” That’s the ego thought system and special love in operation right there—always trying to limit Love’s infinite extension in our minds.
In pushing Tomas to specifically agree to my pre-marital ultimatum, I didn’t foresee the adverse effects that it would have eventually on both of us. Somewhere deep down, I felt guilty for placing conditions on our love and knew that it was fear—and not an innocent or unconditional Love—that motivated me to do so.
Tomas, in fact, did breach my terms with not just one affair, but three. His guilt and shame increased with each mistake and I, at the time, was oblivious to it all. For three years, he could not tell me for fear of my leaving him; so while we were “together” as a couple in “form” (marriage) we were certainly not together in “content” (Love).
“For an unholy relationship is based on differences, where each one thinks the other has what he has not. They come together, each to complete himself and rob the other. They stay until they think that there is nothing left to steal, and then move on. And so they wander through a world of strangers, unlike themselves, living with their bodies perhaps under a common roof that shelters neither; in the same room and yet a world apart.” T-22.in.2:5-8
Tomas had trapped himself with my condition and doomed himself to a prison of deceit, separation, and isolation. So many times he wanted to confess, but could not bear to face me. When he came close to expressing his vulnerability, he heard my threat ringing in his ears and thus he would retreat into separation again.
He felt mired in guilt for breaking his promise to me. The consequences of this deceit were that we both felt estranged and separate. We then fixed the blame outward—upon one another for each other’s unspoken actions. This, I now realize, was the ego’s projection of unconscious guilt, which is the core and fuel of the ego thought system. I now recognize the subtlety of the dance of victim and perpetrator.
The dance, however, seemed to come to a halt between us that momentous evening where we forgave each other, for our relationship began to take on a whole new meaning and purpose. That night, we experienced first-hand the Course’s definition of forgiveness: nothing bad had ever happened. We were blameless and guiltless.
Once we extended toward one another this quantum forgiveness, all seeming negative effects literally dropped away. It was as if the past evaporated in our unconditional acceptance of each other. In this lesson we also realized that we were never a victim of anything, contrary to what the ego tried to convince us of during the first six years of our relationship.
We discovered that neither of us had done anything sinfully wrong, as the illusory world would have judged. We had merely erred. Underneath the mistaken thoughts and resulting behavior, all that had really occurred was a consistent cry for Love. In that Holy Instant of forgiveness between us, our Holy Relationship truly began, and within this profound recognition of one another, guilt and fear were erased from our hearts and we were bathed in a magnificent state of grace.
“There is a course for every teacher of God. The form of the course varies greatly. So do the particular teaching aids involved. But the content of the course never changes. Its central theme is always, “God’s Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation.”M-1.3:1-5
As to the outcome of my friendship with Daniel, it did not end when Tomas came home from New Guinea. As a matter of fact, we continued to meet regularly and openly, much to Tomas’ dismay. Nevertheless, I was guided to continue to deepen my relationship with Daniel and that lasted just as long as it took for each of us to learn the lessons we needed at the time.
Daniel and I continued to get together, however we included Tomas in many of our joinings. The process was radical and emotionally challenging but tremendously healing for us all. Specialness was being undone. Genuine honesty, accountability, emotional vulnerability and defenselessness were abundantly present in all our interactions.
I really believed that Daniel would commit to a lifelong goal with me in pursuing the path of the Course. But after a year or so, he explained that he was not ready to commit to being undivided in his pursuit of this pathway. Much later, I recognized that a Holy Relationship takes two people or more who commit to the one common and consistent purpose of quantum forgiveness, using the 7 Key Principles of Holy Relationship. However, for Daniel at the time, it was too much of a leap and too threatening to the life he was invested in. I was so saddened by his decision then and did not understand it.
Daniel eventually moved away some time later, and we lost touch until twenty five years later (a miraculous outcome featured later!). However, those few months with Daniel presented Tomas with an opportunity to undo many of the fears that fed his ego’s desire for the exclusive, toxic special relationship. As for me, it enabled me to learn to stay focused on my particular issue at the time which was to stay true (without guilt) to my own Guidance, despite frustrating my partner’s ego’s needs.
Holy Spirit’s Relationship Goal Reversal
For Tomas and I, all this served to cement our Holy Relationship while undoing the special love we once valued. The circumstances provided a great lesson in forgiveness all around and we were blessed with this awareness and with the willingness to take the challenge on.
When two people in a special relationship agree to a Holy Relationship, the Holy Spirit enters to transform it to a Holy Relationship as it did with Tomas and me. The original goal of “specialness” is immediately replaced with the goal of Holiness by Him. There is no denying that this period is often uncomfortable and confusing. The temptation to end the relationship and seek the old goal of specialness in another relationship is quite common. This initial phase is such a huge, life-changing experience that I feel compelled to include a riveting section about it here from the Course:
“The holy relationship, a major step toward the perception of the real world, is learned. It is the old, unholy relationship, transformed and seen anew. The holy relationship is a phenomenal teaching accomplishment. In all its aspects, as it begins, develops and becomes accomplished, it represents the reversal of the unholy relationship. Be comforted in this; the only difficult phase is the beginning. For here, the goal of the relationship is abruptly shifted to the exact opposite of what it was. This is the first result of offering the relationship to the Holy Spirit, to use for His purposes.” T-17.V.2.
“This invitation is accepted immediately, and the Holy Spirit wastes no time in introducing the practical results of asking Him to enter. At once His goal replaces yours. This is accomplished very rapidly, but it makes the relationship seem disturbed, disjunctive and even quite distressing. The reason is quite clear. For the relationship as it [is] is out of line with its own goal, and clearly unsuited to the purpose that has been accepted for it. In its unholy condition, [your] goal was all that seemed to give it meaning. Now it seems to make no sense. Many relationships have been broken off at this point, and the pursuit of the old goal re-established in another relationship. For once the unholy relationship has accepted the goal of holiness, it can never again be what it was.” T-17.V.3.
“The temptation of the ego becomes extremely intense with this shift in goals. For the relationship has not as yet been changed sufficiently to make its former goal completely without attraction, and its structure is “threatened” by the recognition of its inappropriateness for meeting its new purpose. The conflict between the goal and the structure of the relationship is so apparent that they cannot coexist. Yet now the goal will not be changed. Set firmly in the unholy relationship, there is no course except to change the relationship to fit the goal. Until this happy solution is seen and accepted as the only way out of the conflict, the relationship may seem to be severely strained.” T-17.V.4.
“It would not be kinder to shift the goal more slowly, for the contrast would be obscured, and the ego given time to reinterpret each slow step according to its liking. Only a radical shift in purpose could induce a complete change of mind about what the whole relationship is for. As this change develops and is finally accomplished, it grows increasingly beneficent and joyous. But at the beginning, the situation is experienced as very precarious. A relationship, undertaken by two individuals for their unholy purposes, suddenly has holiness for its goal. As these two contemplate their relationship from the point of view of this new purpose, they are inevitably appalled. Their perception of the relationship may even become quite disorganized. And yet, the former organization of their perception no longer serves the purpose they have agreed to meet.” T-17.V.5.
“This is the time for [faith.] You let this goal be set for you. That was an act of faith. Do not abandon faith, now that the rewards of faith are being introduced. If you believed the Holy Spirit was there to accept the relationship, why would you now not still believe that He is there to purify what He has taken under His guidance? Have faith in your brother in what but seems to be a trying time. The goal [is] set. And your relationship has sanity as its purpose. For now you find yourself in an insane relationship, recognized as such in the light of its goal.” T-17.V.6.
“Now the ego counsels thus; substitute for this another relationship to which your former goal was quite appropriate. You can escape from your distress only by getting rid of your brother. You need not part entirely if you choose not to do so. But you must exclude major areas of fantasy from your brother, to save your sanity. [Hear not this now!] Have faith in Him Who answered you. He heard. Has He not been very explicit in His answer? You are not now wholly insane. Can you deny that He has given you a most explicit statement? Now He asks for faith a little longer, even in bewilderment. For this will go, and you will see the justification for your faith emerge, to bring you shining conviction. Abandon Him not now, nor your brother. This relationship has been reborn as holy.” T-17.V.7.
During that year when Daniel joined us and my relationship with Tomas was in total upheaval, the preceding section of the Course literally kept me sane and devoted no matter how dramatic and terrorizing things appeared to be. I re-read this section hundreds of times thinking that if we got through this phase, we would one day help others to take the journey from special to Holy Relationships too.
As Tomas and I began our new Holy Relationship, there was an unmistakable, unified decision made between us. We agreed with Holy Spirit that we would do whatever was necessary to pursue this lifelong commitment to Holy Relationship. Looking back, I realize that we had agreed to join in the one, common and Holy Purpose necessary for the Holy Relationship; consistent forgiveness. (Note: To learn more about the one, common purpose, you can read or listen to the section titled, “A Universal Blueprint for Holy Relationship”). I also recognize on reflection that we were both committed to Holy communication through applying the Seven Key Principles of Holy Relationship. Now, there was nowhere for the ego or specialness to hide.
Finally, we had made a wholehearted commitment to study and practice the Course together and, accordingly, it moved us to seriously question the ego-thought system including all our beliefs and values. While this triggered conflict at times, we were still motivated to extinguish the old goal of the special relationship with its well-entrenched patterns and replace it with Spirit’s Holy purpose.
Despite our commitment, I still found myself falling back into old patterns of denial and projection. As a recovering victim, I would still occasionally bait Tomas to play the old role of perpetrator. I really got to witness just how much the false-self is addicted to being unfairly treated; how much it desires to project guilt onto others.
We began to part the curtain that previously made Love appear so obscure in our earlier relationship. Together, Tomas and I were learning that real Love requires no defense, because beneath the false self, changeless innocence as Love itself- is what we truly are.
As our fear of Love dissolved, we become aware that Love is. Period. In a Holy Relationship, we learned that innocence is Love. There can be no Love while there is blame, guilt, judgment, grievances or resentment. We learned that Love emerged naturally when we prioritized seeing each other as guiltless, as sinless, above all else.
Innocence as Love arises as the natural outcome of prioritizing forgiveness. Love via forgiveness is ultimately known only through its unconditional extension: by giving it without expecting anything in return, we remember that we are innocent. The outcome of this realization is eternal and changeless Love that cannot be threatened by anyone or anything – just like the vow we made to each other with Holy Spirit seven years earlier: “No matter what and no matter who might seem to come between us, let us never abandon each other.” If two or more took and kept this vow, a lifelong Holy Relationship would be the glorious outcome. However, every shred of specialness would need to be seen and surrendered to Spirit.
The Course advises us before doing anything, to always ask, “What is it for?” In other words, “what is my intent or purpose?” We asked this question of ourselves in our day-to-day relationship almost every time we were tempted to act from the ego. Using the tools of present moment awareness and radical self-inquiry, we found to our astonishment that most of the loving things we routinely did for each other were really arising from fear and guilt—and not from real Love, which arises from God.
For example, my previous, fear-based conditioning had me believe that if I didn’t cook most nights, wasn’t attentive to Tomas’s needs, or didn’t look attractive for him, then I might lose my husband. Put differently, most of what I gave in our relationship was driven unconsciously from deprivation and self doubt—and not from trusting in the abundance of Spirit. I was a people-pleaser. I had mistakenly convinced myself that compromise and sacrifice equaled love. I had no idea that real Love demands nothing.
Tomas, too, realized that much of what he did for me in our relationship was motivated by his fear of abandonment. His acts, like mine, were not born out of unconditional Love. These unloving, conditional acts are what we term “ego-stroking” and are usually desired and expected in all special relationships.
We rapidly realized that nearly everything we had believed was Loving was actually fear-driven. Consequently, we agreed to practice being more authentic and radically honest with each other without fear of being rejected. In our previously special relationship, this was not possible because we each valued the “special” ego-stroking behavior more than we valued authentic relating.
The shift in the relationship’s goal meant for us both a withdrawal of ego-stroking. This was very uncomfortable at first, although there was little attraction to regressing to our former way of relating. Once we agreed that the relationship’s purpose was no longer to get our ego’s needs met, we were free to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to its real aim: the undoing of “the blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence.”
The benefits of this goal-reversal strongly made themselves known. We began to learn to trust the Holy Spirit in lieu of the ego and to reinterpret and wipe away all of our judgments. A mighty leap of faith was taken as we applied this most powerful means of transformation and healing. Quantum forgiveness as the Atonement, which was the catalyst for healing, continued to prove to be the miraculous tool that opened our hearts to the possibility of peace between us, rather than the ongoing suffering that simmered under the surface before.
Completely re-purposing our relationship, it enabled us to continue to transcend the routine, marital bargaining and judgments that we had been accustomed to imposing upon one another. Instead, we joined in an unparalleled and divine Love that was literally out of this world.
Releasing the Marriage to Save the Relationship
Around 1997, about seven years after our first significant forgiveness experience, we came to a point where we had grown enough (had more trust in Love instead of fear) to see that the ego still claimed a stake in the form of our relationship; in our case, the marriage. This is a contract that is supposed to offer security, but actually bred insecurity. There remained some doubt within us, which surfaced as fear of losing each other. To Tomas, it was the fear of abandonment, and for me it was the fear of freedom.
Despite all the adjustments and corrections we had made on our new path, Tomas and I were still experiencing some conflict, insecurity and fear. I found there still remained fears within me, specifically those of feeling a victim that I projected onto Tomas to keep the special relationship dance afloat. He would sometimes join the dance as the seeming victimizer.
While observing this phenomenon between us, we concluded that the ego was still hiding in the “form” of our marriage. In our case, it ostensibly offered the ego protection from being fully exposed and then relinquished. We knew that in order to continue our undivided resolve to Love each other no matter what and no matter who might seem to come between us, we would need to accept higher guidance . . . again.
It became obvious to both of us that we still cherished some “specialness” between us and that forgiveness was not complete. For example, I recognized that I still felt obligated to play the role of a good “wife”; however, this was in stark conflict with an inner calling that beckoned me onward into a new phase of life in which I could be free to travel and explore my own spiritual challenges.
I needed to surrender the remnants of pseudo-love that presented as my feeling responsible for being a good “wife.” Being incredibly loyal, this posed an uncomfortable challenge. Nonetheless, I felt strongly to trust my Self in this decision to follow my inner calling, despite initially disappointing Tomas and other members of my family.
While our first lesson was that of forgiveness and working towards dismantling our special relationship, the next lesson for us was to learn that the “form” of a relationship meant nothing in truth. In fact, quite often it is the ego’s addiction to the form of the relationship that excludes the “content,” which is Love.
Once we had discussed our situation and connected with inner Guidance, we both felt strongly directed to go the next step. If Love was indestructible and eternal, then no-thing could threaten it. But did we truly believe this? That’s when we took another leap of faith. It was time to surrender the form of our relationship.
We arrived at a point where the actual marriage, with all its false security, was limiting our opportunity to fall into the trusting arms of Love without opposite. Soon after, we divorced, but not to separate as the ego would like. We relinquished the marriage in order to save our relationship! Pretty weird stuff, huh? However, that was our guidance and I will say here that I don’t recommend this for anyone else unless strongly guided to by Holy Spirit. We felt as if we were pioneers at the time and we took our lessons to the extreme.
“Whenever any form of special relationship tempts you to seek for love in ritual, remember love is content, and not form of any kind. The special relationship is a ritual of form, aimed at raising the form to take the place of God at the expense of content. There is no meaning in the form, and there will never be. The special relationship must be recognized for what it is; a senseless ritual in which strength is extracted from the death of God, and invested in His killer as the sign that form has triumphed over content, and love has lost its meaning.” T-16.V.12: 1-4
Despite relinquishing the marriage, Tomas and I remained close. In fact, we continued to join often at increasingly deeper levels, unrestrained by previous limitations. We communicated every day and eventually wrote a successful book, Take Me to Truth; Undoing the Ego together. We then went on to travel the world together sharing what we had learned.
In conclusion, the Love that Tomas and I experienced could not be threatened. We reached a place together that far transcended the world’s idea of Love. Tomas was the first person to have ever truly seen me, and I was the first to have truly seen him. We cannot see and therefore Love another unless we see them as sinless and blameless.
We were mutual witnesses to each other’s innocence. As was mentioned earlier, we come into this world unseen and grow up unrecognized. We manufacture a false self that believes it is unworthy at its core, yet spends its life seeking innocence and Love in impossible places. We crave to be seen, to be accepted, and to be cherished. We desire to know Love as our Self; yet, such Love is unattainable through the false-self.
The profound nature of the Love that is extended between Tomas and me now is entirely unassailable. It reaches far past our notion of time and space and the limiting idea of bodies. Tomas left the body in December 2010, yet we remain in constant communion.
For me, Tomas saw past every ugly, shameful and shocking part of me; he forgave it all. In doing so, he mirrored to me the worthiness and innocence that lay at my core. He showed me that unlike every relationship I had ever known in the dream of life, in this one, I did not have to earn Love. Through his unconditional acceptance of me, he demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that I was indeed Love.
However, in our early practice of the Course, it was me who carried the false identity of victim and he of victimizer. Initially as a victim, it was me who seemed to do all the forgiving. Thus, it was in forgiving Tomas that I learned of my own innocence. The more I overlooked his errors, the more I opened to the Love inside me, in us as the one, shared and Holy Self. Tomas, through being forgiven, offered me the same healing and this was the gift we exchanged in relinquishing the special relationship.
Most of us seek love from an un-relinquished false-self, so the experience we usually have is one where we “seek” love outside while we simultaneously “deny” our unconscious guilt. This always results in projection and that’s when we see conflict in our relationships—especially when it appears to be the other person’s fault.
Accepting that all conflict originates within our own mind helps us to apply quantum forgiveness. In extending this, our unconscious guilt is undone. Tomas and I learned that what we give, we receive. As we extended forgiveness, we received it. The result was the Love that we tried earlier to “get” from each other was clearly evident within us. Love was no longer something we sought. By giving it, we realized that we had it all along! Through giving it, we grew to appreciate that Love as innocence, increases as it is shared. This concept is quite the opposite of the ego’s interpretation of love.
Tomas and I discovered an eternal reflection of the incorruptible innocence that lay perfectly undisturbed by any seeming past. We learned so much from seeing and experiencing each other’s needs as not apart from our own. We each learned to drop our defenses, our destructive values, our false images and insane expectations.
We grew to see the other without shame, blame or guilt in anyway. And . . . we kept our original vow: that “no matter what and no matter who might seem to come between us, let us never abandon each other.” We had finally learned that the only purpose for any relationship was not to get our ego needs met, but to wake-up from the dream of suffering. In overlooking error in each other, we came home to our Holy Self . . . and for that, we remain eternally grateful to one another.
As I look back on that earlier transition from special to Holy Relationship, and reflect on all the trials, the times of what seemed like hopeless confusion and suffering, I feel such a tremendous peace. Now I know that Holy Spirit had been guiding us all the way even though we didn’t recognize it at the time. There was not one moment in which He was not present holding us in His Love, despite the fact that we did not recognize we were being carried much of the time. He used everything we originally made to separate and hurt ourselves, and He divinely transformed it all into Love.
MAKE SURE TO LISTEN TO “PART TWO” NEXT here: this explains my own experience of a Phase Two relationship and the lessons I gained from it (many people on the ACIM path may relate to this).
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