You could ask – and not rush towards an answer but simply inquire and give attention to what emerges thereby – am I contained by life or am I a container for life?
It’s not a perfect question – mostly in terms of all the boundaries implied by containers and containment – but still. I have found it helpful in clarifying certain forms of thought to which I am yet attached.
It moves me into the essence of
I am not a body. I am free. I hear the Voice that God has given me, and it is only this that my mind obeys (W-pI.199.8:7-9).
I think it is clear that when this particular body ends, life continues. I have witnessed this at the bedside of those who die: a last breath, a settling, a lightening. It is an end, yes, but an end within what continues.
And it is also clear that what continues – which is simply life – does not originate in me nor need my consent in order to be. It just goes on. Flowers arise within it, stars glisten within it, snow falls within it. It was here long before eyes emerged to see it and brains evolved to name it and it will remain when eyes and brains are no more.
Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you who are life (T-6.V.A.1:3-4).
So A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are life. We are that which remains when eyes and brains are no more. We are that within which time and space emerge.
Of course, the nomenclature is potentially problematic (as nomenclature tends to be). We say “life,” but sometimes we say “love.” Sometimes we capitalize “life” and “love,” as if they are proper names or to emphasize that they aren’t just run-of-the-mill nouns. God, Source, What Is. The Divine Et Cetera. Lately I am inclined to simply call it “awareness,” in the tradition of Sri Ramana and the various teachers that have followed in his wake, but still. The name is not the thing. It’s important to remember that.
The problem with calling it “life” is that we are so attached to life as a personal phenomenon. It seems to be a process – a series of events – that happens to us in these bodies in this world. All the senses assure us this is so, and our brains are addicted to a narrative – to a habit of thinking – that reinforces the belief that we are separate from everything else. There isn’t life – there are just a bunch of forms of life all running around doing their own thing.
So in essence, we believe that we are containers for life – to revert to the original question – and we act and reap accordingly. Grief and conflict abound as a consequence of this belief in separation. But as I have said, the evidence – and the weight of various scriptures and spiritual teachings – argues that all this isn’t true. It seems true but it’s not. We aren’t separated, no matter what perception argues. And there is one life, no matter what we call it.
So it is to this which I give attention now.
The tendency is to think that the world and our bodies need to be improved – or even disproved. But this isn’t true. All that is required is that we give attention in order to see – actually see for ourselves – that we distort and complicate life which is always clear and simple. Fragmentation is a mode of apprehension: it is not itself reality. In a way, it’s analogous to listening to Fur Elise. Our ears “hear” – they are the mode of apprehension – but they are not thereby the music.
It is helpful just to see this: we don’t have to do anything to or with it. We don’t have to enshrine the insight, or commercialize it, or celebrate it. Just see that the way we see is the problem, and that when we straighten seeing out, everything clarifies.
This clarification happens within time, which is to say that it’s a process. Sometimes I use the metaphor of traveling to Boston: we all have different modes of travel that make different demands on us and so forth, but we are all going to Boston.
But then one day we see Boston on the horizon! And so it’s no longer about the journey, or the mode of travel, but actually being in Boston. And this is what the clarification is: it takes us a while to groove on Boston, to accept Boston, to be in Boston. We are so used to traveling, so used to projecting the future in which we arrive in Boston, and now we are here. And it takes some getting used to, that’s all.
Awakening is like that. We are already awakened, and so as we become aware of this fact, there is often a sense of: “this is it?” Because it is very ordinary, because it is all there is, and we have always been experiencing it. We just didn’t know that. But now we do and it’s kind of . . . not what we expected.
I don’t know how to have this non-awakening awakening other than return over and over again to the gift of attention: to just see – without judgment or reaction – the ways in which fear and guilt and hurt drive the way in which we see, the way in which we live, the way in which we are. We are very casual, in the sense that we slip readily into old habits of thinking that are shaped by our grief and pain. But seeing this is what undoes it: errors dissolve in the light of understanding, the light of willingness, the light of attention.
It’s funny. Most of the people who read my site in a more or less regular way are basically done with reading. That’s my sense. They know – implicitly usually – that there is nothing left to learn. Whatever I write, they say: yes, I know that, it’s exactly what this person says and that person says.
So the question becomes (for all of us): why not bring it into application? Why not become the awakened expression of life that we know we are?
The whole point of me writing is simply to see for myself that there is nothing left to learn, no crosses left to be crucified on, no Bo trees against which to lean while taking milk from lovely women, no books to read or write, and no teachers before whom to genuflect.
It is not easy to break these patterns of dependency and addiction and thus discover what we might call patternless seeing, but that is what the lessons of A Course in Miracles are for. That is what our internal teacher is for. And that is what our sense of resonance is for. Altogether they demonstrate that there is nothing we need to do but give gentle and sustained attention to what is, which always demonstrates that we are ourselves sustained by what is.
Really, giving attention is the easiest thing in the world because it happens of its own accord! All we really do is notice it’s happening and then keep on noticing. And it will do the rest as always.