The Game

by Frank Dobner
I recently saw again a movie called “
The Game.” It is about a guy named Nicholas Van Orton (played by Michael Douglas) that is living the extravagantly wealthy life of an investment banker in San Francisco. Although there is nothing more this guy could ever possible want than he already has, he is the height  of  an emotionally remote and disconnected individual.  Immediately at this point, you’re probably thinking….yeah poor bastard. The thing is, when I watched this movie this time, I tool a little deeper look, and I could see myself in him.

Although Van Orton witnessed his father killing himself by jumping off the top of their palatial house, his father was equally a remote individual. Although divorced, Van Orton even coldly responds to his ex-wife as she calls him on his birthday to extend warm wishes. Everything about him is business. He is a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge.

For his birthday his brother (played by Sean Penn) shows up after not seeing him for 3 years, and gives him a certificate for a “game” offered by a company. Penn calls it a life-changing event.  After talking with a business associate claiming that the game was THE significant event in his life also, the guy also provides Van Orton with a quote from the Bible (John 9:25 – “I was blind but now I see!&rdquoWinking, and subsequently signs up the game. What followed was a series of life-threatening experiences that made him face all of his fears, preoccupations, comforts, and possessions.

Although this movie is a thriller, it is also sort of a wake-up call to “reality.” When most people talk about the word reality, normally they will talk about their physical life – their body, home, money, friends, cars, family etc. When I speak about reality though, it is about being connected. When you talk about all of these other physical things, you are defining yourself as a cut-off being from everything else. You might feel at times, like you, your friends and your family are all one, but in fact by defining them as what you see, you are cut-off. You can’t be “one” with somebody or something if there are two of you.

I won’t tell you the ending of the movie, but there is an even more significant level about the idea of separation. When you think about it, separation is the cause of every type of anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, guilt, and fear. The thing about it is that simply seeing things as separate does not cause these feelings. It is the thoughts that arise from this separation that cause the anxiety. For instance, if you lost all of your possessions at this very moment, what is the real problem? The real problem is the thought that you have about the loss of your possessions. Of course you will worry about your future without possessions. But for right NOW, having no possessions cannot be a problem. Assuming that you have clothes on and not standing naked in Antarctica.

Thought and Meditation
A Course in Miracles takes this discussion about separation to the ultimate explanation. It states that not only are we experiencing fear from the idea of being separate, but we are actually causing literal separation from our thoughts. The Course says that we’ve literally created the universe from the thought of separation. So the real problem is thought itself. You’ve probably heard that thought is the most powerful thing in the universe. The greater statement is that the universe is thought.

So what do you do with thought?  Well, you’ve probably heard a lot of things about meditation. Everybody has their own opinion about what meditation is and how to do it. Some people think that it’s some sacred practice that special people can do. Meditation is nothing other than a habit of recognizing that you aren’t your thoughts. There are three stages of meditation:
1. Remember that I’m not my thoughts. This is a very hard concept to understand for many people. I remember when I first started to meditate and someone told me this, I had no idea what they were talking about. It was impossible to remove myself from the judgments, depression, anger or sadness that I was experiencing. The fact that you think you are your thoughts is why you are on earth to begin with. If I had not separated myself from the Truth (state of oness or God), I wouldn’t be here writing this blog. Being able to recognize that you’re a thought, and that thought is painful is a very important first step.
2. I’m the witness to my thoughts. This is about spending enough time to watch your thoughts. At this stage, you realize that not only are you separate from your thoughts, but that who you are is indeed independent from this noise. Thoughts are noise. Most of formal meditation takes you through this step and stops here. The Course is unique in that it takes you the whole way in the next step.
3. Doubt and question my thoughts. This is the step that goes beyond just about any other type of ordinary meditative practices. You have to bring your thoughts to light and clear them out. If you do not get to this state, you end up in some form of bliss and peace while you are meditating, but the state soon wears off shortly thereafter. I’m sure that you’ve experienced this when  a peaceful state of  meditation or prayer falls away soon after the environment changes. The Course allows you to permanently deal with these thoughts through forgiveness. So you say “forgiveness, that’s bullshit!”  In religious practices around the world, scant real substance has been given to the concept of forgiveness.

In traditional “religious forgiveness,” what forgiveness means is that you are pardoning
a real offense. In this antiquated form of forgiveness there really is nothing happening. Because,  if you could make an offense real (stealing, murder, rape, insults, sideways glance, wisecrack, pinch in the ass….), then there is no way of recovering.  A Course In Miracles recognizes the You (the person that can witness your thoughts while your meditating) could never really cause an offense. The Witnessor of your thoughts (your spirit) is not capable of any offense. So forgiveness is simply the recognition that you are completely innocent and incapable of doing anything wrong. The concept of sin, is the thought that you were guilty. True forgiveness is similar to shining a light on a shadow and the shadow disappears. You are innocent and there is nothing to forgive.

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