It may seem strange to look at our problems or addictions as gifts, but they are lessons that teach us something on our life journey.

It may seem strange to look at our problems or addictions as gifts, but they are lessons that teach us something on our life journey.

Who runs your life? We live in a dualistic world and have a dualistic mind. It contains both aspects of "good" and "bad." Remember the cartoon of Donald Duck with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other? He was conflicted over which one to listen to. We knew which one was the voice of truth or love.

Our world reflects dualism in opposites: love and fear, big and small, hot and cold, reward and punishment, etc. We have the power to choose between these two very different thought systems: spirit and love or fear and hate. The fear/hate thoughts are of the ego, and it runs the world. That sounds strong but the DNA of the ego is attack. The proof is the ceaseless wars since the beginning of existence. We are not civilized. We attack others and declare war. We attack ourselves through addictions. The result is always guilt and anger.

What we learn on our life journey is that the ego is not our friend. It is not our identity or our truth, either. Its only power is given to it when we listen to it and follow it or believe it.

By taking charge of the mind, we take the ego's power away. This is the wisdom of many psychological and spiritual practices. The ego cannot change or affect the peace of love within you. For example, the ego mind tells us we have done something wrong: we overindulged, smoked a cigarette, snapped at a friend, or ... fill in the blank. We feel guilty. Guilt is the trap. We go around smiling but deep down we feel terrible, thinking, "If they only knew."

Feeling guilty is the ego's ace in the hole. "Trapped, trapped like rats," said the Cowardly Lion in "Wizard of Oz."

Here is a checklist the next time you feel trapped and want to stop the guilt.

1. Go to the stately calm within. As soon as you realize you are suffering and your mind is going around in a maze, stop. Focus on the breath, center and stop thinking.

2. Imagine holding the hand of love. Unconditional, all-knowing eternal love, whatever that represents for you: Presence, God, Jesus, Allah, Spirit or Buddha. You can think of love no matter what you are doing.

3. Tell love what is in your heart: "Love, I really wanted that chocolate cake or _____." Tell love everything and be honest. "I was depressed because I didn't get that job or he hurt my feelings, or _____."

4. You have looked squarely into your beautiful mind and given its contents to love. You left the ego sucking its thumb. It will come up with plenty of negative chatter. Thoughts from love will always speak of peace. Perhaps you will make amends to someone. A thought of condemnation about yourself or anyone is the ego speaking of guilt. Let the ego judgment go. It is not true, and you are still love.

5. Now laugh. Start with a phoney laugh, and soon you will really be laughing. This takes the seriousness out of the ego's sails.

If you "slip up" and get mad, it is the ego keeping you in guilt. Repeat the above steps. Looking honestly at yourself is a practice of forgiveness. "Forgiveness is still and does nothing. It merely looks and waits and judges not," according to A Course in Miracles.

This is training the mind, and you are in charge. That is why it is a gift. You get your mind back. We all have addictions or problems in this world. Gradually you take control. You are in charge when you remember love is who you are. Case dismissed. You are healed, whole and innocent.

Sally McKirgan facilitates the Inner Peace column for the Tidings and A Course In Miracles meeting group in Ashland. Contact her at