It is important sometimes to step back from A Course in Miracles and take a look around. I don’t mean in the shopping-for-another-spiritual-path sense, but more in a see-the-world sense. A pay-attention sense. What is happening to your brothers and sisters? Where are your teachers? Where are your students?
There have been extended periods of my life in which reading takes up most of my day. Often, that reading is nurtured and buttressed by getting out into the world – putting the books down and taking a long walk, going for a swim, planting some flowers. It doesn’t have to be about nature. Could be getting some ice cream and haunting a used book store. Could be just sitting on a bench in a city. People-watching can be very loving, very helpful.
The effect of this distance is a calmer brain, a looser body. Yes, I know, those things are not real. But we believe in them, even as we are struggling to undo them, and sometimes it’s nice to just make peace with your illusions. You’ve got this “false” body and you can’t get rid of it so . . . why not be nice to it? Loving even?
We forget sometimes that acts of love directed at illusions – be they our bodies or the bodies of our brothers and sisters or things those various bodies appear to do – are acts of forgiveness. I get so wrapped up in the Course sometimes it creates an almost impossible metaphysical web. I get defensive, you know? I’m not a great student, I’m not awake, I’m not getting that disco-ball-in-Heaven experience. And then I analyze the defensiveness and see the ego in it. So I pray to Jesus except Jesus is the model, not the teacher, so I redirect the prayer to the Holy Spirit because that’s better except the Holy Spirit is really my right mind so it already knows what’s going on so maybe I just need to meditate except . . .
Do you know that space? Have you ever been there? It’s part of the process. It’s very natural and not a crime. But it’s really a drag, you know? You can quote all the right parts of the text and it still hurts.
For me, when I see that my practice has led me into knots like this, then it’s time to go for a walk. Yesterday I knelt in the mud and studied bear tracks for about fifteen minutes and I felt much better after.
Sometimes I don’t want to hear Jesus say “get your head out of your ass and go find a little joy.”
Because you know the joy is out there. It’s out there in little doses and big ones. It’s in the room in which we read and write, the rooms in which we cook and eat, the roads on which we drive or walk, the buildings in which we teach and learn . . . it’s everywhere. And it wants to be found and more than that it wants to be shared. Discovering happiness – how simple it is, how accessible – is such a gift, and then extending it to others, is also a gift. There is genuine liberation in that experience.
I don’t think it matters if we’re talking about the Course, or zazen, or Christian adoration groups, or Transcendental Meditation or what. Our spiritual sincerity can easily lead us over the line into obsession and when that happens the prayer is ended. Its helpfulness is compromised.
We have to get out and walk. We have to bake some cookies or play catch. Trim the rose bush, maybe. Do a little bird-watching. I don’t know what it is for you, what gets you out of the brain space. I can say that when I whole-heartedly give myself to be healed this way – looking for joy, finding joy, extending joy – that eventually I remember that the altar is always with us. It’s not in a book. You don’t have to tangle yourself up in prayer to find it. Every copy of A Course in Miracles could disappear from the world forever and the Truth would still be here and it would still be found. It would still be brought into application.
I find that so comforting!
Sooner or later we learn this lesson and really accept it, at the deepest level: we are always home. We are always loved. We are always with God. But to learn it . . . sometimes we have to let go and travel a bit.