by Michael Schwengel

“I give everything I see all the meaning it has for me”

I’ve been away for a few months, but felt inspired to come on today and talk about what i’ve been up to, and give some insight into a spiritual text which for years has had a profound impact on me: A Course in Miracles.

In this video, I go into some detail on my understanding of the inner workings of ACIM, discuss certain lessons that have caught my attention lately, and some mention of travel plans ahead: Mexico & Romania.

Full Video Transcript

Hey this is Michael with OneMichael.  It’s been a few months since I last posted on my channel and I just felt for some reason an inspiration to get back up and rolling today so that’s what I’m doing. Yeah.

Basically the past few months I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a play I was part of called Trust – a play written by John Woerhle and directed by Rich Remedios put up here in Minneapolis. We had previews in St. Cloud but we did the final production at the Lab Theater in North Minneapolis, so that was a really incredible experience for me. It did kind of take a lot of my energy so I didn’t put very much into my YouTube channel or other things but…

It’s funny as I’m sitting here there’s a desire to be really present and to explain what I’m feeling but I’m also having this kind of external eye fighting me and wanting to make observations on how I look or how the final cut of this might look, where I’m saying things that might be kind of stumbling on… It’s like this inner fight between being here on the mark and wanted to express myself clearly and this external eye which seems to have some sort of concrete evidence out in the world but there’s really no reality and all it’s all basically a projection of my own beliefs. I was going to go into some more detail about the play that I was a part of but I feel what’s most present is to discuss this workbook lesson actually from A Course In Miracles that has been popping into my head a lot today. A Course In Miracles is a spiritual text that I have been studying for the past I would say maybe seven years. It really helped to open up my experience with the divine (I would call it, or with the universe) and help me understand my human experience here and help me kind of settle into being in a body, because at the time when I was suggested to pick up this book I was having a lot of trepidations come up around just why am I here what is the purpose of life. When you start gathering so much information about the human experience and what’s going on in the world outside of you, it can be really overwhelming to figure out what your place might be in that, especially knowing that you may not have a big impact on kind of the chaotic world as it seems to appear around you.

A Course In Miracles in a way is kind of an escape hatch from all of that. It doesn’t mean that you’re escaping your interaction with the world or your responsibilities in the world or anything like that but it gives an opportunity to experience Who you really are. So for example, as I’m sitting here talking to you there seems to be an experience where I have a lot of layers of perception of who I think that I might be. I have, first of all, like this YouTube channel and that as a layer of myself, behind that is also a layer of “Michael the actor”, behind that is “Michael the personality” – who I think that I am as a person that’s walking around and that’s colored with a lot of different characteristics such as being a gay man, being a white man, being a man (in general), living here in Minneapolis, all these different attributes that seemed to make up who I think that I am. When in reality there has to be some sort of existence that occurs beyond those different layers. There has to be something that’s actually seeing through that experience.

As I’m talking to you, I’m having an understanding that these might be characteristics of who I think that I am but there’s also an awareness beyond that that is kind of the witness of all of that. A witness of the fact that maybe I’m not just these small things that I think that I am. And I find personally that as I seem to peel back the onion of what I think is valuable in the world and what I think is valuable in myself, I find myself to be more loving, less judgmental and more connected to people around me. And more able to follow that kind of intuitive spontaneous nudge to connect and act in ways that feel really good and really loving and really coming from a place of peace.

The text is something that really resonated with me when I picked it up. I’m not much of a religious person but the reason that I loved this book so much is that as soon as I started reading it I felt an experience. I felt something shift within me.

The book is laid out in two different parts. The first part is a text that kind of explains an ideology of how the universe came to be and what our position is in it. The second part of the book is a sort of workbook that could be seen as being a mind training exercise. The idea behind of course in miracles is that the entire world as we know it is a sort of illusion, because it’s made up of our perceptions which have no real basis in reality. They are all based on past ideas and past experiences (which past experiences are colored by other past experiences and ideas and beliefs). So these individual experiences of reality as we know them can’t have an objective truth because every single person’s individual reality is different, and that actually brings me a lot of peace. Because when I know that what I’m looking at has no real basis in truth, it allows me to move into an experience of letting go, and being more present with myself and with others.

The workbook is kind of an activity in letting go of our past thoughts. Why do we have these past thoughts, and why do we hang onto them? A Course In Miracles would say that the reason for this is that we come into the world with so much enormous guilt, and we project that guilt onto so many different facets of our being. This creates different layers that we live behind. So these personalities that we live behind: our occupations, our relationship to others that we seem to put certain values on, are oftentimes projections of our own self hatred (in a way), our own self betrayal, or our own self-doubt, you could say. The result of that is that we can’t connect to people authentically and we can connect with ourselves authentically. We can’t have an experience of true beauty, which I think is our birthright as being here as just being in the world.

I’m gonna try to find the workbook lesson that has been popping up in my head today and kind of explain the parallels that I’ve been finding in my life and how it resonates with this. Bear with me a second while I find this lesson. Okay, the lesson that I was actually looking for is one of the very beginning lessons of A Course In Miracles. Forgive me, I haven’t actually picked up this book for maybe a year or something, I don’t know. I really feel that I live the principles, and that brings me a lot of peace on a moment-by-moment basis, but I haven’t really needed to like pick up the book and look at a certain saying for a while.

Okay, this is the lesson that I have been dwelling on today. Lesson 2 and of course in miracles is “I have given everything I see all the meaning that it has for me” and more specifically the lesson says “I’ve given everything I see (in this room, on the street, from this window, in this place) all the meaning that it has for me.”

So why has this resonated with me? Well I’ve been kind of going through a interesting experience in the past few months of stepping more into my being and stepping more into the world and being able to give myself a voice, and the effect of that has been that I’ve been met with a lot of my own projections coming to the surface. So some examples would be that in the process of being in this play that was put on at the Lab Theater, it really gave me an opportunity to step out in my raw authenticity night after night and night and lay out these really vulnerable emotions in front of a group of people and so it was kind of like an excavation exercise of all these things coming to the surface.

The result of that was people’s own feedback coming back to me in the form of praise or whatever and there’s an emotional response that comes from that. It can be kind of like a drug type of experience to get all these people’s reactions and not knowing where to place them and not knowing how to sort it out and wanting more of that feeling because it feels so good. I find peace in knowing that, just as this lesson is saying, “I’ve given everything I see all the meaning that it has for me”, there’s no basis in reality to the feedback that people give you from their own perspective because everyone has their own subjective perspective of the universe. When they’re giving you a “like” or praise or whatever that might be, it’s coming from their own projection. You could take it in a really neutral way that is loving and agrees that the person is resonating with you, but to ascribe any sort of value that it increases your worth as a human being it’s kind of a misnomer and it takes you away from your knowing who you really are.

So the experience for me of going through the exercise of night after night after night doing this play and having people give me praise or whatever would bring to the surface, it would illicit this response in me, I would feel this like sort of elation and kind of this high and then I would kind of wonder to myself: well why is this a temporary experience? And why is it dependent on people giving me praise? And why don’t I already know that I’m good enough? So it was kind of interesting really to sit back and to take the reflection for what it was and to just allow myself to know that even before the play started or any of that, I still was a worthy expression of the universe. Even if I were to never go onstage and give a performance that people agreed with, or even if I want to do nothing at all can I understand that I am a perfect child of god, of the universe or whatever your understanding of the divine or any of that might be.

Even if you aren’t a spiritual person – personally I think that spirituality has a lot of emotion behind it and it can color things and it can kind of draw people away.   But even a person who for example is just a humanitarian that doesn’t necessarily believe in a God, I believe that resonates with the same idea that as a humanitarian you understand that human value is maximal for each person. Each person has maximum human value coming into the world and to understand that allows us to have complete empathy for others, and for ourselves, which allows us to go into the world in a way that’s very effective and loving and connected.

So let’s see: “I have given everything I see in this room all the meaning that it has for me”. Some other ways that this has been connecting for me is just on a grand scale ideas around careers that I might be in and future paths that I’ve laid out in certain paradigms that I’ve created where the mind likes to chase after in order to gain some future value. For example in some ways I work as an actor, commercial and film and things like that, and there’s an idea in my mind that if I were to achieve some status of success in that realm, whether it be you know, a large budget feature film or something like that, or a big commercial. That I can then reach a state where my value can be maximized. Where I can finally be good enough, and there’s a belief that there is an actual world out there where this is true. There’s an actual paradigm that exists outside of myself where this is true.

And it might seem that way because a lot of people agree with that. For example, the whole complex of Hollywood or those types of things. The reason they exist is not because there’s actually something we can point to that says “this is the source of power”, it’s just an agreement of the minds, an agreement of a lot of people agreeing on the idea that “this is what is valuable”, “this is what is successful”, and “we’re all going to reach toward that”, and “at some point we might reach a point where we feel fulfilled”.

Well in my own experience I haven’t reached that form of worldly, you know “success” specifically, but I’ve reached other forms of worldly success that from another paradigm might seem equally as valuable from someone living in a different demographic, or culture, for example. And finally I found that when I reach those places, they’re very fleeting and so that brings me back to understand that “Okay, there’s no basis in reality for those things because if there were, then when I would have gotten there, I would have found in an experience in which I found myself to be whole”. That never happened.

So for example as I find myself in my mind chasing after a future desire of success, I can remind myself that “I have given that everything I see (in my mind) all the meaning that it has for me.” It’s a little bit different than the lesson because a lesson in a lot of ways is talking about the physical realm so it’s talking about the fact that this camera that I seem to be standing in front of, “I have given that camera all the meaning that it has for me”, and that I can actually expand on that a little bit too. Because in reality we could say the camera is a very neutral object: it’s some plastic and metal that’s strung together to make a form and it serves a purpose of recording things and there’s a microphone attached on top of it that records audio. That’s what it really is, but in my mind I describe all of this value to what the camera represents and what it might be reflecting of me and what it might be capturing to convey to other people, and emotions behind who might be looking at me through this camera and then that in turn changes my reaction to how I present myself because I think that there’s something behind it.

All of these emotions and ideas stem from one very simple physical object that is just in front of me but it’s now been colored through the lens of my own perception to mean something completely different and that can, that’s a very emotionally charged example, but it can be equally applied to a lot of different things. So for example, this pillow that I’m sitting next to. This pillow. I’ve given this pillow all of the meaning that it has for me so. It’s a very neutral object. There’s some fabric and thread and stitching on it, and there’s like stuffing inside of it, and it’s just, you know that’s what it is. But I have decided in my mind to give it a whole lot of value in the stories around what these colors represent and the place that I bought it from, the person that helped me pick it out, and how long that I’ve seen in this room and maybe that I’m kind of sick of seeing it so much and that has some sort of indication as to my own self-worth that I should have gotten… There’s just a lot of crazy thoughts that can be expanded upon just from one simple object.

It makes you realize that at any given moment the tendency to want to get away from actually being here and experiencing my own reality which is formless and which stems from a great sense of peace and love and contentment to just be here in this space and to observe without any sort of judgment. That’s a really beautiful place to be and that feels true to me because there’s no subjective layering going on top of it that I’ve just made up for my own minds enjoyment, or pain.

So A Course In Miracles, the workbook, kind of works like that. And the lessons continue to kind of go from these very specific examples in your present reality to moving outward to kind of more general meta concepts. It’s all really saying the same thing. The funny thing about A Course In Miracles is that it’s very holographic and the point of it is just to take the mind which seems to be so intellectual and almost short-circuit it in a way, so that I can see it’s own falsity. And I can see how the mind in a lot of ways doesn’t serve the purpose that it thinks it does.

Here’s another lesson I’ll just give an example of. “If I defend myself, I am attacked.” The idea behind that lesson is that if I don’t know who I truly am, I will be living in a state where I seem to be under constant attack and I will continue to defend myself with that belief. For example if I think that I’m not good enough as I truly am, I will go out into the world in a way that I posture in order to get people to like me (people pleasing or whatever). It seems like a very harmless thing, but in doing so I’m actually attacking myself. Because I’m proving to myself that I’m not worthy of existing if I were not to have that defense of people pleasing or posturing or living out of a certain layer that I think is powerful in the world. And so to move beyond that heals the idea that I need to defend myself and it heals the need to attack myself ultimately.

The other beautiful thing about these lessons is that they can really like, once you find a thread of where it might be applying in your life, it will continue to open up and you’ll see it appear in so many different ways. It almost gives you the freedom to just kind of let them go when you have the courage to do so. It does take courage to prove to yourself that you’re not this worthless being, and that you don’t need defense. It takes me a lot of courage to do that, and it takes me a lot of time to do so.

I can even look back to the first YouTube videos that I’ve created and how there was a substantial amount of fear and need to defend myself. Maybe not even outwardly to the camera or to people that I was with, but just within my own mind. And how there was a belief that there is an objective world outside of me that I need to defend myself to, that I need to explain myself in a certain way to be understood, rather than just trusting that the words that come out of my mouth are enough. And to just follow the present moment to the next, to the next, to the next, and see where things carry. That allows me to exist in a sense of ease which is much more enjoyable and feels much more true because it’s not coming from the need to defend.

I could go in much greater meta sense to my understanding of A Course In Miracles and kind of where it comes from, and maybe I’ll just do that right now. So ACIM ultimately says that this reality that we seem to be living in is an illusion. You’re going to probably think that’s crazy when you hear that unless you’ve been familiar with this concept because you look around say, “Okay, well I mean I seem to be in a body, and there’s this couch here, and I can feel that, I can touch it, I can feel the texture of the things around me.” Everything seems to be very visceral. But I’ll just ask you about dreams. Do you have dreams where that reality seems very, very real to you, and you seem to be interacting with things and you can recall the exact color, shade, and texture of the things around you, your relationships to people, the emotions that come up? All those things feel very, very real until the moment that your consciousness changes and you seem to wake up in this new state of reality where that didn’t seem to be real at all. And now this is real.

So ACIM is kind of pointing to this experience, outside of this reality that we seem to be living in. So you have the dream state, and then this reality we seem to be living in, that’s not even the true reality. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but if you have the desire to move to a different experience where you find out what may be a more true reality for you, this text (and a lot of other spiritual texts) point to an experience of moving beyond that.

Why do people desire to move beyond that? Well because a lot of people find the world that we seem to be living in full of a lot of pain and suffering and a continued cycle of “stuckness” you could call it, that just doesn’t feel enjoyable, and there seems to be a question in the mind that asks if there might be something more than this. That questions, you know, why are we even here if there seems to be so much continuous pain, striving, and suffering?

So the idea of ACIM, the backing of it on a metaphysical sense is that who we really are is unchangeable. Who we really are is this abstract form, abstract energy. You can call it love even. We are connected to our source, which you can call Love, Universe, God, I’m sure there are a million different words for that. To me they all feel the same. That there is the source of energy, this life source that is true and pure and just feels good, and this life force is who we really are.

At one moment in time could say there was this tiny mad idea where we questioned what it could be like to be other than this perfect life force (God, divine source, whatever you want to call it). And so this collective consciousness had this idea: what could it be like to be outside of that? And we thought that we had left God in that moment of asking. So we encountered this enormous guilt on a cosmic scale and that guilt was so enormous to comprehend and so it was split up and projected into time and space and it created you could say the big bang and we created planets and universes and these different galaxies and inside of the galaxies and universes and world that we seem to live in right now in the world we seem to be inhabiting separate bodies so there’s a split. Well, actually I would say go back, I would say there was a split of souls so we moved from this collective consciousness where this is collective perfection we move into like splitting into first like planets and all of these things in into earthly forms and then we move into souls, and then these souls seem to have incarnations inhabiting bodies, and these bodies seem to split up.

So we’re like in a body now, and there’s these projections because the guilt is so strong even coming into the world, being a body and feeling like that’s not enough. And so we split into you know these ideas of chasing after certain professions and careers that might get us to a point of being enough, and so then it continues on to different psychological neurosis, and depression, anxiety. All of these different things are kind of splits in the mine that keep us away from our true source.

And that’s kind of how I see it. So the experience of ACIM calls to letting go of the identification with all of those things in the split mind. All of those entities, the ideas of value out in the world that kind of keep us distracted from this deep, deep, deep pain that we might have left the source. The way the Course In Miracles describes it is that it was a tiny mad idea that we could even leave our source (God, or perfect love). It was this tiny mad idea that we could even leave any of that, because we can’t. We are always part of it.

So with the same mind that seemed to have left that perfect experience, we have the opportunity or responsibility, in the sense that it’s our only ability to respond to every moment knowing that we can forgive continuously and forgive ourselves, forgive everything that we seem to see outside of ourselves. To move into a union of truth. And I know that I’m talking in very abstract terms, but that’s kind of how it makes sense to me.

This process of forgiveness is a continual process that allows us to shed all these layers that we seem to have and carry with us, we shed layer upon layer upon layer in our lifetime, and as we do that we get into closer and closer connection with who we really are. As I see it, I’m not really sure there is like a specific endpoint or goal that one needs to achieve. I think others would maybe disagree with me on that. But to me it’s more like changing a gear in the car from moving in like, I don’t know this is going to be a horrible analogy, but being in like fifth year or something and moving into first gear and vice versa. And so the difference between being past and future oriented where the mind is complete scattered and there’s a sense of needing to get somewhere all the time and kind of moving outside of that into like a present based experience that accepts reality as it really is. And allows oneself to feel everything continuously. Yeah.

So that is kind of like my goal I could say in living here. It’s not necessarily to like get to a certain place but to keep in true alignment with myself in a way that I’m being honest with the emotions that are coming up and the experiences that are coming up and allowing that to be a doorway to self-inquiry. A doorway to letting go of these beliefs that no longer serve me. So I’m kind of explaining on a personal level connected to this meta understanding of how does that even contribute to anything in a grand scale.

My belief is that on a personal level as I let go of these false concepts and false beliefs that no longer serve, that I’m connecting closer to source, and by doing so I’m able to help others do the same thing. It doesn’t come from a source of obligation or needing to help other people, just knowing that as I get more in touch with who I really am, I’m allowing other people to have the experience in doing the same thing. Allowing others to have the courage to do the same thing.

So that is kind of my life journey. And I’m not, to be honest, even like a huge Course In Miracles freak – I don’t carry this around with me very much anymore. I did for the first few years for sure and it really helped me a lot and I’m not saying anything wrong, that but I’m really open to the idea that everything that happens in my experience is happening just for me. In the sense that whatever I’m seeing around me is a projection of my own personal beliefs, and as I allow that to come reflected back to me in reality, if I truthfully allow that reflection to come back to me, it allows me to then break down those beliefs that no longer serve and to move forward. So I don’t really necessarily just use this book or this text as a tool, I use every single encounter, every object and emotion that comes up as a doorway to finding more and more peace and greater and greater defenselessness.

Right, okay, this has been fun. I didn’t think we were going to – I wasn’t planning on talking about this right now. I was actually planning on talking more about like what I’ve been doing the past few months. I guess I did in a round about way.

But yeah, I’m excited to be back on my YouTube channel and we’ll see kind of what comes up next. I’m going to be going to Mexico in about a week with my partner for just a little vacation, which should be nice. And then after that I’m actually going to Romania with some talented filmmakers from Minneapolis and a talented actress that I’ve worked with before, and we’re going to Romania to make a film. So that is going to be very fun.

That’s all I’ve got on my mind for now. Thanks for listening, and I’m actually really excited to be talking about this part of myself, this very kind of spiritual understanding that I have. It feels good to talk about, and if any of you have any questions or input, things you want me to discuss or if you want to come on and talk with me I would love that. So let me know. Okay, love you.



Michael Schwengel

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