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A Course in Miracles Lesson 194

My practice of A Course in Miracles is grounded in the ordinary. It finds itself in what arises day-to-day – baking bread, mowing the lawn, writing poetry, drinking tea with Chrisoula, and walking and talking with my children.

New_England_Brook

The kids and I following the brook south . . .

The course is efficient and practical. The attention I give to it on its terms is returned to me with a surfeit of graceful interest. The gift that we were given in creation is revealed; the truth of “I need do nothing” becomes a fact, a sure foundation upon which inner peace both rests and extends.

Lesson 194 of A Course in Miracles neatly captures this emphasis on what is ordinary, this benevolent practicality, and the luminosity that naturally attends when we are no longer looking for drama or magic or any other kind of special personal experience. The lesson urges us to place the future – and be extension, the past and present – in God’s hands. When we do, we rest in peace ourselves.

Then is each instant which was slave to time transformed into a holy instant, when the light that was kept hidden in God’s Son is freed to bless the world. Now is he free, and all his glory shines upon a world made free with him, to share his holiness (W-pI.194.5:3-4).

But the poetry and eloquence of the course belies the grounded nature of this transformation. When we resolve to place our lives in the hands of God, and bring our attention to this placement throughout our day, then the effects are felt here. The effects are felt now.

What worry can beset the one who gives his future to the loving Hands of God? What can he suffer? What can cause him pain, or bring experience of loss to him? What can he fear? And what can he regard except with love? (W-pI.194.7:1-5)

The line at the supermarket is too long – we place our future in the hands of God. Our child is struggling at school – we place our future in the hands of God. We do not have enough money to pay the mortgage – we place our future in the hands of God. We are teacherless, partnerless, lost, confused, scared . . .

deer_print_by_brook

Tracks of deer coming and going, much like the rest of us . . .

We place our future in the hands of God. No more and no less. It is enough.

There is nothing that we encounter in our day that is not shadowed by our fear of the future. Everything that we do as bodies in the throes of the egoic belief system is shaped by the past in anticipation of an improved future. And what has this mode of thought brought us but pain? Pain with intermittent relief from pain, sure, but still pain.

And A Course in Miracles comes along and offers us a way out of this cycle. It offers us a new thought system, and a method by which we might surely attain it. It dissolves our ruinous engagement with time not through personal understanding but through our willingness to “let the future go, and place it in God’s Hands” (W-pI.194.4:5).

This is literally a practice! It is an action that we take when faced with fear, guilt, anger, lust, greed, grief and so forth. The circumstances of our pain don’t matter. The apparent cause or causes don’t matter. Nothing matters but that we place the outcome – and the attendant feelings – in God’s hands. And when this placement becomes “a habit in [our] problem-solving repertoire,” then we will know at last salvation and peace (W-pI.194.6:2).

It is important to see that we are not made perfect by this practice. We don’t become Buddhas or ascended masters. Our bodies continue to be bodies – hungry, lustful, capable of fatigue, subject to emotion. Biology and neurochemistry proceed apace. But we are no longer ruled by those material externals. We do not fight them; we merely look beyond them.

[H]e who has escaped all fear of future pain . . . is sure that his perception may be faulty, but will never lack correction. He is free to choose again when he has been deceived; to change his mind when he has made mistakes (W-pI.194.7:6-8).

That is a description of you and I today – right now – if we choose to accept it.

old_wine_bottle

An old wine bottle we dug up (and washed in the brook) near one of the many old homesteads lost in the forest . . .

Do you see the loveliness in it? The absence of consequences? The gentle practice by which we are led away from the world of guilt and fear and into love and forgiveness? It is so simple. I am not saying it is easy – I would be a liar if I did – but I am saying that it is simple. And I am saying that it is a transformation bequeathed to us over and over. And all we are asked to do is try to remember – moment by moment, day by day – to surrender our personal ideals and expectations and ideas of improvement. All they have ever done is bring us to grief.

In the end, Lesson 194 is the manifestation of the new way promised us by A Course in Miracles. We place our future in the hands of God and together learn that “only good can come to us” (W-pI.194.9:6).

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Bluets and Stars

The world is not gentle. How many times can I say it? The old dog will no longer enter the forest so we sit together in the side yard before dawn, waiting on the light. Bluets and stars, fireflies and mail. That which arises in the body comes and goes and nothing is ever enough. How terrified I have always been of hunger! Yet Being is not contained by the body, a fact recoverable only after one relinquishes the inclination to learn and improve and become. Then, between rain drops, a chickadee can be heard, and later in Watts Brook, a pair of beavers glide slowly away at dusk. What never left must be here, as what was Given is forever giving. The fear you feel as the Kingdom reveals itself was predicted, and you need only let it pass. I go slowly through our days, folding blankets and baking bread, as wordy as helpfulness requires. We did not make the wind, nor the trees through which it flows, but what joy to give attention thereby! Quarter moon at twilight, lilac florets falling. Can you hear it now, the whispered yes?

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The Joy of Mystics

lately
gray hair
and a casual disregard
for rules about farting in public
have left with me a joy
traditionally reserved for mystics
and the very young

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A Course in Miracles Lesson 186

Here is the thought of true humility, which holds no function as your own but that which has been given you (W-pI.186.1:2).

Ask yourself: when told that salvation of the world depends on you, does not a chorus of internal voices begin to clamor in various degrees of consent and disagreement? Anticipation and resistance?

And hearing those voices – and not pretending they are not there, and not playing favorites amongst them, or otherwise dismissing their effects – can we begin to give attention to what, if anything, can be encountered beyond them?

Our true self cannot be discovered in thought. We aren’t going to think our way to the Truth. This does not make thought bad or unnecessary; only superfluous to Truth. We can think our way to baking brownies or clearing trails or driving to Chicago, but we cannot think our way to Reality.

So there is a presence beyond our egoic response to A Course in Miracles, that tends to us as we sit quietly, willing to experience it.

Our self-made roles are shifting, and they seem to change from mourner to ecstatic bliss of love and loving. We can laugh or weep, and greet the day with welcome or with tears. Our very being seems to change as we experience a thousand shifts in mood, and our emotions raise us high indeed, or dash us to the ground in hopelessness (W-pI.186.8:3-5).

This self can save nothing – salvation is not contingent on it in any way. Rather, salvation is contingent on our willingness to be led beyond this tiny self, this fragile construct of thought and feeling and language.

. . . certain as the sun’s return each morning to dispel the night, your truly given function stands out clear and wholly unambiguous. There is no doubt of its validity. It comes from One Who knows no error, and His Voice is certain of Its messages (W-pI.186.11:1-3).

Our practice of this lesson, then, depends on our willingness to set aside our various mental, emotional and psychological images of the self in order to find out what remains. Because it is what remains that is the foundation of the world’s salvation. So we can ask: what stays when we release our insistence on this or that role for ourselves? Who are we when we no longer rush to define ourselves in terms of what we think the world needs?

We think that our ideas are a form of knowledge, aspects of truth, helpful pointers to a self that can eventually fit into the world and maybe even save it from itself. But this thought (regardless of the myriad forms it takes) is simply faith wasted in yet another illusion. We have to let it all go – our images of helpfulness, kindness, gentleness, willingness, love. All of it. Can we do that? Admit that we don’t know? Admit that we even our purest ideal of lovingkindness contains the rank seeds of selfishness?

It is hard. It is very hard.

And yet, to the precise degree that we can entertain it as a possibility, help is given. Help is there. It is like we are so busy drawing maps to lead us home that we fail to notice we are already are home. What is required is not effort, but gentle and sustained attention to the present, which is forever sufficient.

Thus, the question is not how do I save the world, or what do I need to do to save the world, but rather am I giving attention to the Voice for Love (W-pI.186.4:1)? Nothing more is asked of us because nothing more could be asked.

The ego’s many voices – its pretend logic, its passionate directives – will fade and disappear as we observe them without investment. What remains? What emerges from what remains?

Those are interesting questions; and it behooves us to be discovered by the answers.

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Outside Bethlehem

the lion lies down
with the lamb –
Christ has already forgiven
what we did to the vessel
bearing his likeness –
and I have work to do –
words to arrange,
sentences to sift –
before I too can sleep
in that little motel
outside Bethlehem

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Happy Accidents

What are the owls carrying on about at 4:30, their cries echoing back and forth through misty woods on either side of the brook which smells oddly – or is it me – of smoke. Meanwhile an unspecified ache in my right side keeps me leaning ever so slightly left, not entirely distracting me from a lifelong – but recently intensifying – study of birch trees. Such loveliness always right before us! And what are books but reflections of experience? What are kisses but happy accidents of biology? I don’t know – I really don’t – and who cares anymore anyway. The dog is content with Spring, rolling in fox scat, drinking from puddles, going mostly ahead of me like in the old days. I keep thinking how we won’t be here soon enough, the two of us together, and it’s okay. More and more death just feels like a letter falling out of an envelope, or a breeze stirring yellow curtains above the sink in my aunt’s kitchen in 1972. God is the story we tell ourselves until we grow up enough to face the dark without narrative. What a mess we’ve made of chickens, broadly speaking, and don’t get me started on Africa or the Republican party. The flip side of all this solitude and interior focus is a yearning for money and hot sex in motels. I’d do it if I could handle it but I can’t, not anymore. I’m not even sure I remember how. Yesterday I cleared a little deadfall from the trail and went down to the clearing where I still hope someday to build a little hut in which to write and read and tend responsible fires. The owls never stop warning against you which is gratifying, in its way. Look closely and see how the forest is in motion, slowly but perpetually. That is the lesson and the only one we need! Thank Christ for the many dogs who have never not helped me see it.

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Ownership

you know,
that last moment
before you give your life to God
is the last moment you own anything
God gives a damn about

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