Often I think of cookbooks, which cannot be written outside Love, or so I like to believe, the way others believe that Jesus died thinking of their sins. What an accounting we will someday make! The Shakers haunt me, as does the impossibility of imagining a world in which I am not. What happened that Awareness should have been so contained? In truth there is nobody – and no thing – to receive the accounting but that’s not a comfort either. In the morning the winds are mighty like castles falling, or armies gathering, and the last leaves fall around me and Ursa Major rolls on his back, hooting at the deeper sky. Coffee and prayer and then the remembrance that we do not live by bread alone. “Such a repast, eaten in the light of a roaring fire, was pleasant enough in the simple long-ago.” One moves in the direction of Love, stumbles, and rises again, lost. Lost! It is as if I want to be here on my knees weeping, or perhaps I was hungry as a child and nobody thought to feed me. Or is it just that we all must face a lonely season? Lost again. Still. My heart given to God, my hands wandering from project to project, pilgrims in a vast spill of darkness learning the hard way not just any light will do.
Reheated coffee, the dog sighing on her carpet nearby, and faint violet of the sky before dawn. The window I am opens. Blue jays at the front yard maple stripped of leaves reference the hunger we are yet learning to abide. I want to use the word testament in a sentence. Witness? Also I am tired of all this lying. All day driving south, map sliding around on the empty passenger seat, remembering back when I drank and that was how the days passed, and still do. A disconnected phone is not a contradiction and drawn blinds made him feel safe who so often went where it was scariest just because. In the morning buffets of warm air put me in the mind of November mainly because they’re not. The dog grows old, and I grow old, and the bluets come and go, but something is always there and nobody can refute that. How hard I have tried to find the one who will contradict what I know to be true! So many teachers who learned they could not grade me! Ruined in my bones and mostly shoeless but never not working the pedals. There are no hidden chapels, there are no secret chords. When I was a little boy I believed photographs were the core of God’s plan for salvation because in so many instances they were all that remained. Words like dust drifting through sunbeams putting us in the mind of eternal. Go where it is darkest and wait? I mean beyond sheets, I mean beyond shoes. Now.
Fail not in your function of loving in a loveless place (T-14.IV.4:10).
We think we know already what to do – what grace is, how it is given, to whom it belongs, where it is received. Yet our emptiness and grief is a great tide against which we forever push in fear we will be swept away. Our insistence that we know – what love is, what God is, what we are, what truth is – is what threatens us. Our pretense unto knowledge is the emptiness forever swelling above our heads. “We” cannot push back on this because “we” are “it.” Only the self we imagine stands between us and reality. Yet Heaven is the end not of imagination but of mistaking what is imagined for truth. Surrender this and joy abounds.
Before you make any decisions for yourself, remember that you have decided against your function in Heaven, and then consider carefully whether you want to make decisions here. Your function here is only to decide against deciding what you want, in recognition that you do not know (T-14.IV.5:1-2).
In the forest and fields I discovered that Life goes on without my intervention or participation and that this is okay. It is more than okay. I did not make life: I made my ideas about life and fell in love with them, and gave them all my attention. But life is not what we think it is, even as it contains – or, better, holds loosely – our ideas about it.
Decide that God is right and you are wrong about yourself. He created you out of Himself, but still within Him. He knows what you are. Remember there is no second to Him (T-14.IV.4:5-8).
If we remember that God is Life (e.g., T-14.IX.4:5), that passage cannot be mysterious or distant or complex. Life surrounds us – holds us within it not as separate beings but as life itself – and in that understanding, we see at last there is nothing to do or learn, and that even consequences are illusory. Tara Singh spoke of this insight as the grace that lends itself to our fruitful practice of A Course in Miracles.
There are no consequences – hence, in reality, no reaction. What an astonishing discovery: truth unfolds like a flower within the mind emptied of itself! The duality of punishment and reward, on which society is based, begins to crumble before your very eyes. Even the vanity of the loveless “I know and you don’t” slowly starts to fall away. A new vitality, the inner conviction of your own reality emerges – a clarity that begins to dispel thousands of years of misbelief (Nothing Real Can Be Threatened 12).
To “love in a loveless place” means only to recognize and remember that we who were given Love in Creation have forgotten Love and so must be taught to remember it. We must receive it again: we must yield to Creation which is forever and always offering itself to us. And all this means is to give attention to what is. It is to be intentionally aware of life in this moment which excludes nothing and neither sets or nor accepts any conditions. When we decide not to decide we have made the choice that restores to our awareness the reality of God’s love.
The sky arches from one line of trees to the other – maple and pine-lined hills in the center of which I write and read and gesture vaguely in the direction of prayer. Is it honesty that separates sinners from saints or simply the willingness to step into a fire? I ascend Sam Hill amazed as always at what a self-righteous and insufferable prick I can be. “If you want to walk with me then keep the fuck up.” Well, the dog still loves me, or seems to, which may be why I always keep them handy. It’s no use complaining you’re alone when you refuse to give anyone a reason to stay. Demanding, brooding, mocking, whining . . . “I got your list of reasons she left you right here.” Most of my teachers have observed that we don’t really need to know more than that one step makes clear the next yet I still can’t stop preferring this one to another. Grace begets a pilgrimish lust, as splotches of green moss extend across a dozen roadside maples, each more ruined than the last. Oh roadside salt, what price have we paid for our so-called certainty? So I stop and turn back, so what? It’s raining and I’m lonesome and I don’t want to die alone.
At some point, as serious students of A Course in Miracles, we need to understand that the Holy Spirit is simply a metaphor for right choosing – or the action of our right mind – which we could also call right perception – and that although the rightness is real, the Holy Spirit is itself a symbol. “I” am not possessed – gently or otherwise – by a foreign agent created by God to be my guide from madness to reason.
When we imagine that Jesus or the Holy Spirit are separate agents – somehow removed from us in time and space – we slip into a well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless dualism. This is an evasion of our responsibility and our potential for inner peace. We need to see beyond the metaphor to the reality at which it points. We don’t want to confuse a map of the way home for home.
When A Course in Miracles advises us to let the Holy Spirit choose for us which path to take in any and all situations, it is really making a statement about the fundamental equality of all paths, and the futility of judgment.
Even simpler, ACIM is saying to us:
1. Your familiar way of thinking, feeling, reacting and deciding doesn’t work;
2. There is a better way;
3. You already know the better way;
4. Chill out – breathe – and let the better way reveal itself.
Say to the Holy Spirit only, “Decide for me,” and it is done. For His decisions are reflections of what God knows about you, and in this light, error of any kind becomes impossible. Why would you struggle so frantically to anticipate all you cannot know, when all knowledge lies behind every decision the Holy Spirit makes for you? Learn of His wisdom and His Love, and teach His answer to everyone who struggles in the dark (T-14.III.16:1-4).
If we read that passage closely we see that when we relinquish the power of decision, then what happens becomes a reflection of God’s knowledge and “error of any kind becomes impossible.” We are liberated from consequence, and our liberation is shared – it touches all our brothers and sisters.
A Course in Miracles gently insists that the other way is already here, right now. And so we stop looking for alternatives and rest quietly in the sureness that God’s gift will reveal itself in Creation. It’s not a question of finding what’s lost but rather seeing what is.
This experience is simply the decision to access the part our mind that is “part of the Christ Mind” (C-6.4:1). It is not separate from us in any way. It is not a mystery to solved, a ritual to be perfected or secret to be divined. It is inherent in us; it is us. That is why A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are the Holy Spirit’s “manifestation in this world” (C-6.5:1). We are the Holy Spirit and we know the Peace of God when we choose to let go of the ego’s habit of judgment which always serves only its own imagined needs and wants.
But how do we do this?
First, we have to see that at the most basic and simple level we are not joyful with the ego’s machinations. Our lives are not working.
Thus – second – we calmly and patiently give attention to what the ego is and how it works. We observe our habit of selfishness and aggression and so forth. In doing so, sooner or later, we begin to see how shallow and rootless what we call the ego – what we call the self – actually is.
When we have accepted our misery and looked at its perceived cause (the ego and its decisions), then we naturally enter the Thetfordian space: we see and declare and accept that there must be another way. And so our attention shifts: we begin to give attention to this other way. The ego says we are meant to seek for it and gladly encourages us to become spiritual searchers. The ego loves a project! But A Course in Miracles (or another spiritual path or practice) gently insists that the other way is already given. It is already here, right now. And so we stop looking and rest quietly in the sureness that God’s gift will reveal itself in Creation. It’s not a question of finding what’s lost but rather seeing what is.
Sometimes when I write or talk this way – the Holy Spirit and Jesus are just metaphors – people get upset and defensive. It’s okay. I am merely witnessing to what works for me – to what has been helpful for me. It may or may not be helpful for you, and you should not be shy about either questioning me or simply moving on.
It is always the ego who insists there is a right way and a wrong way and refuses to abide by those who choose against what it considers right. But the Holy Spirit only sees a multitude of equal ways because all of them lead in the end to the knowledge that we are already home in God, in what is. No journey was needed because no home was ever left.
We are called simply to allow Truth to be true. We are called to gently witness unto reality, understanding that awareness is reality’s only condition. We are called to embrace the equality of all our brothers and sisters, from bluets to squirrels to people, past, present and future. It is all there, all given, and the Holy Spirit knows this because we know it and because we and the Holy Spirit are simply this knowing, briefly manifest in bodies, briefly manifest in ideas.
A miracle, as that word is brought to application by A Course in Miracles, is not a cause of anything but rather an effect. It is an effect of a decision to give attention to the present moment without bringing either the past or the future into it. The miracle denies nothing and accepts the wholeness of whatever arises. Thus peace, thus joy.
Each day, each hour and minute, even each second, you are deciding between the crucifixion and the resurrection; between the ego and the Holy Spirit (T-14.III.4:1).
We are given the power to choose between peace and conflict, which decision is internal and altogether unrelated to what is external. What is external has nothing to do with anything; it is merely a canvas on which our thoughts leave faint trails of either joy or sorrow, according to our internal decision. The external is the trail of wind across the lake, faint ripples bearing witness to the greater passage. The miracle serves us by witnessing unto how we have exercised our capacity for decision.
The miracle teaches you that you have chosen guiltlessness, freedom and joy. It is not a cause, but an effect. It is the natural result of choosing right, attesting to your happiness that comes from choosing to be free of guilt (T-14.III.5:1-3).
“Choosing right” in this instance relates only to what is going on inside of us – at the level of thought, and the levels that are beyond thought. “Levels” is a misleading term, because it suggests both a physical space (in “here” and out “there) and a linear progression from conflict to peace. But if we give attention to thought, we will see that there is a great deal beyond the egoic chatter that seems to define and contain us. And that “beyondness” – somewhat like descriptions of the material universe – is forever expanding. Its limits are literally incomprehensible. You cannot reach the end of within.
“Thought” in this case does not mean ideas or what can be rendered in language: that is the surface, that is the shallows. We can’t think our way to what A Course in Miracles calls the thoughts we think with God (W-pI.51.4:4). As Tara Singh pointed out in Nothing Real Can Be Threatened, God’s love is a “state superior to thought.”
There is no peace or love at the thought level. Though merely projects the outer world of unreality and lives in that abstraction (164).
Nor is this a new idea limited to ACIM. Consider, for example, William Samuels.
In its most intellectual presentations, metaphysics merely states the impossibility of an actual fallen state; but, alas, it still leaves us attempting to play the part of a self-righteous pseudo-identity healing a personal view of the universe, calling everything seen “via the senses” a dream “that isn’t going on in truth,” and it leaves us still having to see the nothingness of that dream . . . there is no peace in this (A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility 54).
When we choose – however briefly, even unintentionally – to let go of this pseudo-identity (which is the egoic self), then we know peace. The miracle enters perception as a witness unto this “right” choosing: we feel it – a sense of happiness, quiet contentment, inner peace, a singular desire to continually serve our brothers and sisters. And over time, the miracle teaches us – because we are not nearly as complex and mysterious as we think – to choose rightly more and more often for no other reason than we really like how miracles makes us feel. Reflexively, we do what makes us happy. We are, it turns out, naturally inclined to grace.
Attention to the truth of this speeds up awakening. When I talk about giving attention, I am simply saying to be aware of when miracles are and when they are not and then be miraculous. We can’t learn this through the acquisition of facts or ideas, but we can see it and bring into application, not unlike learning to swim or play guitar or bake bread.
There are no mysteries! Only miracles attesting to the power of choice upon which all our joy is founded.
One wakes at an unfamiliar hour, nudging the day before them the way a canoe gently shifts the lake even as it is carried towards the center. Trails of mist, a bass-eye view of surfaces and a sense one spent their midnight pacing marble balustrades. Oh moonlight tell me how to guide my kingdom home! I no longer want what I once wanted is now all that I want. The quiet deepens and something settles the less one subjects it to study. For example, the backyard dogwood tree altogether leafless and blue jays pocking the suet Chrisoula makes. Lessons hardly abound. And what I don’t know becomes the elision in which definition yet readies its tangle. Inclination towards complexity as a form of love? Boughs of pine lifted, mergansers making a line north, sunlight after how many days rain? Awareness now of the risk inherent in both biography and history, clocks and calendars, which is to say the impulse to do away with them itself is gone. Is mediated? Lust wrecks the directive longing forever offers. There are dances, there are loaves of cinnamon bread, and there is the mail which though it never quite arrives is always here. Perhaps service is the willingness to be still in the face of ontological difficulties, in which stillness wordiness makes a not-unhelpful legend. Still. Maybe? I am saying not steps, but feet. Not maps but where we are, right now, together.