Spiritual Poverty and the Mystery of Subjectivity

The wind blows where it will,
and thou hearest its sound
but dost not know where it comes from
or where it goes.
~ John 3:8

Yet the utterly subjective nature of our experience as human observers must be entered as into a mystery, its apparent infinities and eternities robustly explored. The interior is all there is, and yet it cannot be all there is, for one can never reach its end and thus say, “there is nothing beyond this.”

Barred from conclusion – from perfect knowledge, from the end of inquiry – we are given instead to wandering, forever hungry and thirsty, without even the comfort of divine guidance or instruction. There is only this: this this, and it is not enough.

window_sill_detail
window sill above the kitchen sink . . .

Our experience as human observers is forever bounded by – and bonded to – this mystery. It is as if we are forever entering the temple where the Beloved waits on her dais, and when we reach out to her she disappears, leaving only a note and a map leading us to the next temple. On and on we go, never quite vanishing into our desire, and never quite satiating it either.

Shall we worship then our going? The apparent cycle of discovering-only-to-lose-in-order-to-begin-yet-again?

We can, if we want. But it does not satisfy, not in the final sense. Worship never does; idols never do. That, too, is the mystery – this innate sense that we are called to fall to our knees and yet once on them perceive only the One who would never ask us to kneel.

The old Christians called this conundrum, this mystery, our “poverty of spirit,” being in the mode of Jesus who called on his followers to be “poor in spirit” and to “take up their cross.” If we interpret this in terms of our bodily existence, it devolves quickly into negotiating cultural mores. “I’ll recycle more and grow my own tomatoes,” “I’ll watch less television and read more books,” et cetera.

There is nothing wrong with executing our living according to terms and conditions which resonate for us according to circumstance, preference, et cetera. But this is a giving of meaning to our living that is secondary to the interior journey we undertake, the radical (as in rooted, not extreme) exploration of the subjectivity that underlies our living. How deeply can you go into yourself and what do you find there?

We are talking here about a movement – a journey, a dance, a descent-and-ascension – from which our teachers and lovers and allies are naturally excluded. The texts that point out the next step cannot actually take the next step. We go empty-handed, without provision. We go without a plan for going back. It is like Jesus said, the one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the reign of God. Harsh words but true and thus – in the end – kind.

We have to let go of platitudes about the interior, the easily memorized sentences and lines handed down by our idols and fellow worshipers. Bumper stickers are for tourists. We are not visitors who will go home to boast about our vacation. We are migrants, mendicants, apostles, beggars. The grace that inheres in our traveling cannot be possessed, recounted, valorized, or sold. It does not extend itself in the form of personal accomplishment.

To “bring forth Love,” which is what it means to be fully human, is to go into this mystery – this whole-that-is-not-whole, this God-forever-just-out-of-reach – without any image of what will happen next, without any plan for response, without any investment in investment in outcome. Those “withouts” are our poverty and only thus desiccated do we become a prism unto the One so that Her pure love might radiate through us in vivid scintillation. Truly we go into the darkness without lantern or fire in order to discover that we are the light and the darkness was but a dream.

Johannes Baptist Metz once wrote that “A human being is the ecstatic appearance of Being, and becoming fully human is an ever growing appropriation of this ecstasis of Being.”

Ever-growing means not ending. You see? There is no home. There is no one. No lover, no God, no shelter. No high table, no secret altar. There is only this, which can only be encountered in spiritual poverty – that is, in the utter open-hearted and empty-handed nature of Being meeting being meeting Being.

The Experience of Inner Peace

“There is no answer; only an experience” (C-In.4:4).

That lovely line – all of seven words – is found in the introduction to the Clarification of Terms in A Course in Miracles. Its simplicity underscores an important tenet of the course: it is a deeply practical curriculum that aims at an experience of inner peace that is not contingent on intellectual understanding. Words only get us so far.

flowers-foundationSaint Paul pointed this out a long time ago in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-7).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This passage was in Helen Schucman’s mind when she was writing A Course in Miracles. We find it early in Chapter Two.

If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly. Your understanding will then inevitably value wrongly, and by endowing all thoughts with equal power will inevitably destroy peace. That is why the Bible speaks of “the peace of God which passeth understanding.” This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you (T-2.II.1:7-11).

And then again in Chapter Thirteen.

The peace of God passeth your understanding only in the past. Yet here it is, and you can understand it now (T-13.VII.8:1-2).

A Course in Miracles is clear: this peace is a gift already given, yet its presence and effects are obscured by fear. This is why we need a course; this is why we need a teacher.

So if we look again at the first sentence from the Clarification of Terms, what do we see?

In context, that sentence is a gentle but specific rebuke to our attempts to reduce the course to a matter of theological or philosophical debate and speculation. The egoic mind likes to take sides. It likes to ask questions that cannot be answered. Told that our separation from God is impossible and illusory it asks: Just how did what is impossible happen? To whom or what did it happen? And so forth.

Those questions – and questions like them that dog our study of the course – cannot really be answered. They have no answer. Asking them – which is to invest int hem – is only a form of delay and resistance. The course urges us to let those questions go and turn instead towards experience. It reminds us that its only concern is “Atonement, or the correction of perception” and that “[t]he means of the Atonement is forgiveness” (C-In.1:2, 3).

A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience towards which the course is directed (C-In.2:5-6).

The point is not that understanding what the course teaches is irrelevant or unhelpful. It is a question of context. For example, forgiveness in course parlance means overlooking error, not confirming its existence by negotiating an agreement to overlook it (e.g. T-2.III.4:1). It is helpful for us to understand this.

The fruits of A Course in Miracles are inner peace – a deep and abiding interior peace that transcends the intellect because it is a gift from God made real in our capacity to give it away.

But if we stay at that level of understanding – if we get very skilled at using words to talk and write about it only – then we are going to miss the actual lived experience of forgiveness. We are going to miss what it is like to actually not perceive error in another, and we are going to miss those moments when others see us absent our errors.

That is a mystifying and glorious and transforming experience! Logic and study can lead us to the door of it, but cannot by themselves create or otherwise substitute for it.

We have to actually forgive, and we have to actually allow ourselves to be forgiven, all as A Course in Miracles envisions.

Perhaps it is like riding a horse. A good teacher will talk to you about horses – how to be safe around them, how to communicate with them, how to be sensitive while on them and so forth. But that lesson is not very helpful if you do not sooner or later mount the horse and ride.

We want to be sensitive to this. The course was written and edited by academics and intellectuals. It is easy to slip into and set up camp in that mode. But that mode exists specifically to facilitate the direct experience of inner peace, and it is to this aspect of practice that we are called to turn. If we neglect it, it’s like ordering a hot fudge sundae and getting only an empty bowl. We need the bowl – but we really really want the ice cream.

It is often easier to study the course, and talk about the course, and have peak experiences of joy and camaraderie with other students of the course, then it is to simply turn our attention to the day-to-day experience of being. Just being in all its up-and-downness, all its this-and-thatness. But it is there – in mortgage payments, breakfast dishes, meetings at work, parenting at home, funerals and baptisms, headlines and sitcoms, sex and romance, vacation and coming home from vacation and so forth – that the course finally and fully becomes us.

Day to day – moment to moment – where is our practice? How is it functioning?

The answer to the latter question – how our practice of A Course in Miracles is functioning – can be answered simply: are we experiencing peace or are we experiencing an absence of peace?

The fruits of A Course in Miracles are inner peace – a deep and abiding interior peace that transcends the intellect because it is a gift from God made real in our capacity to give it away.

It is okay if we are not feeling peace. It’s not a crisis. That is why we have been given such a clear and direct course with such a present and effective teacher. If we are not feeling peace, then we simply give attention to the experience of not knowing peace. We simply look into it, without rushing to solve it or understand it. This is what it means to turn something over to the Holy Spirit: to hold it in awareness in a quiet, gentle and nonjudgmental way.

What happens when we are attentive this way to what is happening in our lives?

To be in the Kingdom is merely to focus your full attention on it . . . Reality is yours because you are reality (T-7.III.4:1, 3).

trail-openingThe peace of God dawns. Slowly perhaps, but ray by ray – in the structure of time to the embodied self that persists in belief – peace comes, and passes through us, and what remains is not a body or a self but peace itself. What remains is the gift, perennially giving itself to itself.

Thus, our intellectual study of the course – rigorous, thorough, and devoted – finds its fullness in application. It finds its fullness when we commit whole-heartedly to make it the cornerstone of this apparent human experience. Over and over we look closely at what happens and arises – the good moments, the bad moment, and the many moments in between – and wait patiently on God’s gift to clarify and reveal itself.

Rest in the Holy Spirit, and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and fear of death. He brings forgiving dreams, in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings there is no murder and there is no death (T-27.VII.14:3-5).

It is not necessary that we understand how this will happen. Its happening is not contingent on understanding. Rather, it is contingent on willingness. The best our thinking can do is demonstrate the need for an alternative to it. Perceiving the need, we begin to give attention that it might be met. We give attention that peace might reach us from beyond the limits of understanding, and it does. It does.

Atonement and Total Committment

The Atonement is a total commitment (T-2.II.7:1).

We don’t want to mistake those words – especially the phrase “total commitment” – for a kind of rallying cry. This is not Jesus in the role of a coach exhorting us to “give our all” or “leave nothing on the field.” He is not saying – nor implying even – that “ninety nine percent” means you lose, or that until we’re “all in” we’re doomed.

birch_trees_awakening
these trees say . . .

It is important to understand that the concept embodied by this sentence – in particular the two-word phrase “total commitment” – is altogether unrelated to personal effort. In A Course in Miracles, our effort is largely beside the point. What we do or don’t do is largely – not wholly but largely – beside the point.1

So what do those words mean? They mean that awakening is inclusive. Nothing is excluded from it. Not one leaf falls but is included. Not one idiot is elected to political office but is included. Not one thought you have – the so-called good ones, the so-called bad ones, and the myriad in-between ones – but is included.

Let’s consider this slowly.

If you can, go look at a tree or a plant right now. What is missing from it? It is a total plant or tree, right? It is not as if you had to go out and make a tree or a plant, or find a partial tree or plant and then complete it somehow.

The tree or plant is given to you totally. It is whole unto itself, and your contribution – beyond witnessing or observing it – is irrelevant.

In you is all of Heaven. Every leaf that falls is given life in you. Each bird that ever sang will sing again in you. And every flower that ever bloomed has saved its perfume and its loveliness for you (T-25.IV.5:1-4).

The course is referring here to a present condition that can be noticed (Heaven is a present condition presently unrecognized). The verb is present tense, not future. It is unconditional. This is reality now, not subsequent to your effort and learning.

And you can begin to experience this Heaven by noticing that the tree or plant is whole and complete, and that you need do nothing to make it so.

This is such a simple observation that we are apt to overlook it. But stay with it. Then begin to generalize it. The window through which you look at the tree – is it whole or partial? That hill in the background against which the tree is framed – is it a total hill or a partial hill? And the sky which frames the hill – is it total or partial?

Don’t play word games! Don’t say it’s a total hill but a partial mountain. That’s being clever and cleverness is a way of being evasive. Don’t say it’s a whole sky but you only see “part” of it. If you know there is “more” sky, is that knowing whole or partial?

We are talking here about an insight that is so simple and clear a child gets it without a problem, but adults overlook or overanalyze or even fight against it. But look and let your looking be its own answer: that tree – and that window – and that hill – and that sky – are given totally to you. They are whole unto themselves.

When we give attention to wholeness, wholeness gives itself back, and in that inclusive mutual giving, oneness is clearly perceived, and perception is translated into knowledge.

This wholeness – this very wholeness – is the Will of God.

Nothing before and nothing after it. No other place; no other state nor time. Nothing beyond nor nearer. Nothing else. In any form (T-25.IV.5:6-10).

Gently – very gently – can you generalize this totality or wholeness to seeing itself? To looking itself? That is, can you find one thing that is not total? That is not wholly given?

. . . [h]ealing is apparent in specific instances, and generalizes to include them all. This is because they are really the same, despite their different forms (T-27.V.8:6-7).

You might say, well, justice is not wholly given because here is an example or injustice. I say, isn’t the injustice wholly given? What is missing from it? If you add something, it is no longer injustice, it is justice. And isn’t the justice totally given?

You might say, well, I am confused about all this. And I say, isn’t your confusion wholly given? You are not confused about whether you are confused. You can’t be. Your confusion is wholly given. Everything is wholly given.

And again – gently, like leading a beloved child to pat a horse for the first time – can you generalize this wholeness unto seeing itself? To being itself? Is it not wholly perfectly given?

The purpose of the Atonement is to restore everything to you; or rather, to restore it to your awareness. You were given everything when you were created, just as everyone was (T-1.IV.3:6-7).

Of course you can perceive the seams – the tree is not the window which is not the hill which is not the sky. But on the other hand, do they not comprise a total image? And is the image apart from the seeing of it? Where is the distance? Where is the difference?

There is only the whole, and it is wholly given.

This sort of thinking is tricky to sustain, largely because it runs counter to how bodies perceive and process perception. And since we largely identify with bodies, it makes sense that we are confused when told that there is another way. But the body is just another image; it, too, is wholly given to what we are in Truth.

Thus is the body made a theory of yourself, with no provision made for evidence beyond itself, and no escape within its sight. Its course is sure, when seen through its own eyes . . . you cannot conceive of you apart from it (T-24.VII.10:1-2, 4).

In a way, what is suggested here is a kind of evidence-gathering that points beyond the partiality and limitations of the body. It is a way of thinking about perception – and giving attention to perception – that is at odds with what is familiar to the embodied self. We are seeing in what we long considered fragments, the very essence of wholeness.

So this is a hint as to what the course is talking about when it says “Atonement is a total commitment.”

Nothing is excluded. Everything is included. How could it not be so? Into what is “everything” included? To what can “everything” be added? What can be taken away from totality or wholeness? Where would you put it?

There is only wholeness, and it is wholly given.

maple_tree_up_close
or these . . .

You might say I am just being clever here. And we do have to be cautious and go slowly. Anybody can pose an apparently unanswerable question. Articulating a paradox doesn’t make us smart or wise.

But the words I am using do point to something, and it is the same “thing” that the course is pointing at, both across the text and lessons, and in the particular sentence we are studying.

We don’t have to “make” a total commitment, like football players bent on winning the Super Bowl, because in truth there is nothing to commit to and nobody to do the committing. But we can be willing to perceive the totality, or wholeness, or oneness if you like, of what is given right now.

Logic leads us to willingness. This is an essential premise of A Course in Miracles, because Helen Schucman was a fiercely logical writer. Logic gets us to where we pause and give attention. We may not know what we are looking for, but we know that looking matters. We know giving attention matters, so we give it.

And wholeness gives itself back, and in that inclusive mutual giving, oneness is clearly perceived, and perception is translated into knowledge. We “awaken” from the dream that there is such a thing as “sleep” or a self that could be other than awake and home in wholeness.

And it is so simple and clear! It is given.

This course makes no attempt to teach what cannot easily be learned. Its scope does not exceed your own, except to say that what is yours will come to you when you are ready (T-24.VII.8:1-2).

So effort isn’t the point. Simply give attention, which is happening already anyway, and what is already true will be remembered wholly in your awareness.

1. We are distinguishing – as the balance of the post makes clear – between willingness and effort. Willingness is a state of mind that allows what is given to be unconditionally accepted. Effort is a misguided attempt to force reality to conform to our personal expectations for it. It obscures the given by trying to give in its place.↩

This Little So Late

so much of this site now
understood as a writing project
the sole point of which
was to slough off
in words
what never needed saying
in the first place

one draft after another
in order to learn that reality
is not an experience –
it cannot be grasped
or released
or witnessed
or named
or anything made
or imagined
or offered
or given
or received

even this little
so late
is too much –

like licking from my fingers
the ashes of a map,
dreaming I taste
the territory

What Remains

attention is the action of pure being
forever seeking its own reflection
in that which is external:
chickadees,
hills at dawn,
the idea of God
as a loving director

yet mirrors only function
in the presence of light –
they do not bring
the light themselves

the one who remembers this
gives attention only
to being itself,
patiently setting aside
both attraction and distraction
regardless of form
regardless of intensity

seeking is only possible
within
and as response
to what already always is

attention is simply awareness
becoming briefly aware
of itself

thus, what passes, passes,
and what remains,
remains –

what remains?

The Gift of Undivided Love

attention is the gift of undivided love,
effortlessly giving as it was given

attention yields discernment
which is to see clearly
what is
and on that basis
to separate the true from the false

discernment yields detachment –
detachment from outcomes and goals,
from having and not having –
detachment from the false –

detachment in turn
yields right action
which has as its essence
order and compassion
which are only possible
when one relinquishes
fear of reprisal
and hope of reward

consider the front yard maple –
in summer it accepts all the light
the moon offers,
and in winter all the snow
that will settle on its limbs

it asks for nothing,
takes only what is given,
and clings to nothing which passes

in this way
the truth reveals itself,
reestablishing as whole
what so long believed it was broken

The Name of God

God is the name given to the idea of unity as it arises in a mind that as yet experiences itself only as separated. It is the syllable by which our longing for wholeness identifies itself and thus calls to itself. It is in this sense merely another data point in a broken world, no more essential or potentiated than chickadees, mountains, Fur Elise or the slope of her shoulder, falling just so.

But even the idea of unity is separative: we can only imagine it from within brokenness. It is fun and interesting to say “I am one with the chickadees” or “you complete me” and even more fun and interesting to actually believe it, but it remains entirely divisive, positing a subject and an object in some relation with each other.

There is nothing wrong with this! It is a sweet and satisfying way to think and perceive, and it often yields a serenity that can be very fruitful and generous. But it is still a goal, still an outcome. It still rests in the division of time: this moment and a better one – a whole one, the one – in the future.

It is tempting to confuse our aspirations for accomplishment, to call the map the territory, and to settle for imagining a long walk through snowy fields and forests rather than walking the fields, walking the forest. We can picture a kiss – we can write about a kiss – but the kiss itself is beyond either language or image.

So it is just good to see this. Not in a disparaging way, like saying that we are spiritual blowhards who only talk about God. Clarity about the nature of our desire and intention are important in the sense that we can’t let go of what we don’t know. Saying “this is where I am” is what allows us to move on, so long as moving on is necessary. Sometimes I reach for A Course in Miracles or Tara Singh and remember: the time for learning is over. And then sit quietly with what is, however it arises, without trying to change it – which often means simply observing my frenetic desire to change everything. It is the giving of attention that matters: not what we give attention to.

The holy instant is a time in which you would receive and give perfect communication. This means, however, that your mind is open, both to receive and give. It is the recognition that all minds are in communication. It therefore seeks to change nothing, but merely to accept everything (T-15.IV.6:5-8).

This can seem difficult or mystical or the sole province of experts but it is important to remember that it is already true. The holy instant awaits us the way our clothes await us in drawers: we don’t wake up each morning and sew a new pair of jeans. So we don’t have to do anything but realize the truth, the That-Which-Is-Already-Given. And often, trying to realize it obscures it even more. A kind of passivity is called for, a willingness to simply let it all be as it is, without contributing anything. Breathe and let go, breathe and let go.

I mean this literally. The moon a pale blur behind snow clouds at 4 a.m. is no more or less than itself. All the poetry in the world won’t change it. The same with the chickadees who just after dawn scratch dusty snow for yesterday’s seed. And with these words, even as they write themselves again in you. Nothing fancy, nothing special. There are no secrets and no mysteries. “Secret” and “mystery” are just names we use to spiritualize our faint-but-not-yet-dissipated resistance to the Oneness we always and already are.

Sit with it. Walk in it. Write it and read it back to yourself. First the brokenness appears to us as beautiful: then the wholeness of the composition begins to seep through. We know it by its namelessness, its absolute independence of language. It is the familiar stillness, the ancient silence, the home we never left. “God” is the servant who leads us back to it: moonlight and chickadees simply bread to salt the way.

Joyfully Learning with God

So long as one is willing to relearn everything, it is not possible to be wrong about A Course in Miracles. This is a natural extension of the fact the course meets us where we are and takes us as far as we are ready to go at a given point in time. When we need to know more – or different – we will.

Who is willing to relearn everything is attached to nothing, and thus has nothing to defend. Salvation and defenselessness go hand in hand (W-pI.153.7:1). Who knows this is true is no longer worried about debating whether the historical Jesus dictated the course, or whether Gary Renard is a fraud, or whether one needs to be practice meditation in order to really benefit from the workbook lessons. Opinion is not knowledge; it is merely an expression of one’s attachment to egoic perception.

We are always learning because the Holy Spirit in us is always teaching. We can ignore this and obscure it but we cannot end it.

When we are humble with respect to knowledge, knowledge remains a gift eternally giving of itself. When we decide we know all that we need to know, or that what we already know we know perfectly, or that what we know is qualitatively better than what somebody else knows, then we are effectively damming the flow of knowledge and damning ourselves to ignorance.

It is possible to be quite smart and informed and still be a damn fool. I am possibly almost expertly qualified to attest to this.

So it is important, I think, to remain teachable: to avoid conclusions, to be aware of those moments when we are “right” and others “wrong.” Those opinions will certainly arise but they need not be given special welcome. My Buddhist friends talk about “beginner’s mind,” that state of openness before experience and so-called expertise enter and we decide “I’ve got it!” Beginners learn well because there aren’t as many barriers that need to be scaled, modified, removed etc.

A Course in Miracles touches on this point, too. In the introduction to the Workbook’s third review section, we find this reminder:

Do not forget how little you have learned.
Do not forget how much you can learn now (W-pI.rIII.in.13:1-2).

The question is: what do we want? Are we ready to slough off the ego and its meaningless baubles passed off as reality? To become Christ-minded? To know God’s Kingdom as a present reality, eternally present in the quiet interior that is outside time and space, untouched by language, clear and impersonal and perfect?

If the answer is yes (even if tentative, even if qualified), then we are consenting to be taught how the peace that surpasses understanding is already so. We are in essence declaring our intention to become students of what is. As the Manual for Teachers says, “teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day, and continues into sleeping thoughts as well (M-in.1:6). We are always learning because the Holy Spirit in us is always teaching. We can ignore this and obscure it but we cannot end it.

Only guilt and fear dictate that learning is done, and they do so only when they perceive that their own undoing is imminent. Thus, when we are aware of our internal resistance to learning – regardless of the form it takes – we ought to rejoice, for it is a sure sign that our thinking is realigning itself in favor of spirit and against the ego.

The joy that arises in us as we seek God’s Will where God’s Will is naturally begets more such directed seeking. That is the essence of learning: one moves in the direction of what causes peace and away from that which causes conflict.

It is helpful then to give attention to what is going on: the broad panoply our feelings, thoughts and behavior. Beyond the form that our living in the world assumes is the simplicity of salvation – love or the call for love, to which the answer is always the same: Love. Nothing is that isn’t God. This is all we learn: over and over, in one form then another then another, until at last our learning ends and we pass beyond altars and saviors entirely to what – for now – we will not pretend has a name that we know.

God’s Gifts Cannot Be Returned

The moonlight has been lovely these past mornings. I have been waking extra early to walk in it. When the leaves are gone, the light travels further. The frost and early snow glisten in the fields. It is such a stillness: we forget how beautiful the world can be, how it opens before us like a luminous nave.

Yet to call the moonlight “lovely” and the world “beautiful” is a judgment. It is a projection. Someone else might not be impressed with moonlight. They might prefer the starry brilliance of the new moon. Or they find the earth more attractive in Spring when all the flowers and trees are coming into bloom. Opinions abound, always.

Loveliness is not inherent in moonlight, is what I am saying. Moonlight just is. When I perceive it as “lovely,” it is only because I have projected loveliness onto it. I projected that sense of awe and wonder and amazement and named it “lovely” to ensure I remain separate from it.

Yet what I project is my own: the loveliness I perceive in moonlight or bluets or Chopin is merely the Godlit wonder that is within me – inherent in me as a condition of creation, of life. And it’s the same for you.

We are always experiencing the projected life: the external world objectified, rendered a canvas on which we cast our joy and sorrow. We disown what is sacred through projection. We feel safer, somehow, with these second-hand lives – when beauty is the moonlight, genius Emily Dickinson, fresh-baked bread nurturing. But in truth, this is why we always feel so lonely inside. This is what the separation from God is: our rejection, through projection, of the gift of creation. Of course, we feel devastated and frightened. We were given everything and we tossed it aside like ash.

Yet the gifts of God cannot be returned. Ignored, hidden, despised, yes. But given back, no. Thus, through our practice of A Course in Miracles, or some other spiritual path if that is more helpful, we learn how to restore to our one mind the fullness of creation. We learn that nothing has happened; we merely looked in the wrong place for peace and joy. But peace and joy were always there, awaiting our right glances.

Only truth can be true! What is the moonlight when we are not colonizing it with our own judgment and crazy need to deny our own holiness? What is a bluet when we stop insisting it be a symbol for grief or beauty or Heaven? What are you when you no longer deny yourself the fullness of creation?

All we are asked to do is give attention to what we are doing with thought – to literally observe the mechanics of thought in order to see that our loneliness and grief and fear is simply the result of a certain way of thinking. If we bang our head against a wall, it will hurt. If we stop, it won’t hurt anymore. When we realize that we are the ones banging our heads, then we stop.

There is another way of thinking of which we are right now capable, and it is incumbent on us to think that way now. It cannot be done for us: we have to see it ourselves. It is a question of willingness, of becoming responsible for creation. Nothing else will do.

Loving in a Loveless Place

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.