I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.
It does not seem controversial to say that if we are hurt, then something caused our pain. For example, if I drop the bureau I am carrying up the stairs and it lands on my toe, then we know what caused the pain. That’s easy.
Let’s say that there is a particular social situation – certain people in a certain setting – and when I am in that situation, I feel hurt and anguished. I go and – lo and behold – experience hurt and anguish.
That is trickier, right? The “cause” of the pain was the social situation, but one could argue the deeper “cause” was my decision to go there in the first place.
Both those examples share a common premise: the pain is real and it is caused by something external (even if I am “choosing” to subject myself to that external).
But what happens if there is no cause? Can there still be pain?
A Course in Miracles asks us to consider the possibility that pain, being causeless, does not exist. It cannot exist.
Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all (W-pII.284.1:1-3).
How can this be?
There is a clue in the preceding lesson. The prayer in Lesson 283 notes that we made an image of ourselves and called it the Son of God (W-pII.283.1:1). We made an idol of this image and used it deny our shared identity with God (W-pII.283.1:3, 5). The prayer intimates the antidote.
Now are we one in shared Identity, with God our Father as our only Source, and everything created part of us. And so we offer blessing to all things, uniting lovingly with all the world, which our forgiveness has made one with us (W-pII.283.2:1-2).
If the “self” who is subject to hurt is not real (but an image made to obscure wholeness) then what happens to pain? It cannot be real either, correct?
It is the giving of attention that undoes the persistent illusion of a separated self; not that to which the attention is given.
Of course that analysis turns on our openness to the idea that the self is not real (but is a manufactured image). To the degree we resist that conclusion, we are going to experience pain – not as punishment for resistance but as a simple consequence of believing we are that which can suffer.1
We all believe that we are bodies, having a temporal-spatial experience in a world that contains other bodies. We all question the nondual premise that the body is an illusion. Why else was this post written? Why else is it being read?
A Course in Miracles is indifferent to when or by what means we undo our mistaken belief about what we are in truth. Lesson 284 implicitly recognizes this, and urges us not to get hung up on the details of when/how.
This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more and more, and finally accepted as the truth (W-pII.284.1:5-6).
Those words describe a process that unfolds in time to a body. There is no need to rush through – or denigrate or deny or otherwise worry about – the experience of being a body. In time, teachers appear, ideas are embraced, and new practices are suggested. Insight is given. A Course in Miracles both accepts – and gently encourages us not to linger on – this experience.
I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt. I would beyond these words today, and past all reservations, and arrive at full acceptance of the truth in them (W-pII.284.1:7-8).
Our practice is one of giving gentle sustained attention to experience as it is given. This may at times include intellectual analysis, at times the devotion of prayer or meditation, and at times mundanity and minutiae. It doesn’t matter. It is the giving of attention that undoes the persistent illusion of a separated self; not that to which the attention is given.
A Course in Miracles is unusual in that it makes no significant demands of its students. Even this far into the lessons, if we read closely, we see the inherent patience and gentleness of the curriculum. It is like a child learning to swim with a loving parent whose only concern is the child’s safety and happiness. “You want to dip just one toe? That’s okay. You just want to play in the sand? That’s okay. You don’t want to learn to swim at all? That’s okay.”
And all the while knowing that when the child is ready to wade into the waves and leap into the blue – that will be okay, too.
1. Please note that the image – so long as we believe it is real – is real for us (see for example (T-26.VI.1:2-4). This can be a confusing distinction, but it matters. A mirage in the desert is not a real oasis, but it is a real mirage. Observe a child with Santa Claus – so long as their belief is total then Santa is real. Or observe adults who believe in a distinctly masculine sky God directing human affairs. It is easy to be dismissive of those examples; but it can also be helpful to ask: what belief (or beliefs), conscious or otherwise, do I currently cling to that I may subsequently learn is/are false? If you say “none,” how do you know? How could you know?↩