I think there is value in thinking about kindness – general, simple ordinary kindness. Helping shovel the walk, listening carefully to other people’s stories and questions, paying for lunch, offering up compliments, sharing experience. That sort of thing.
“Thinking” in this context means thought, feeling, plans, memories, actions and so forth – the whole external movement of the egoic self. When we give attention to others, we ease up on that self-concept with its endless conceits for getting (materially, emotionally, psychologically) at the expense of others.
A good rule of thumb seems to be: play nice and don’t worry so much about winners and losers.
Of course, that is not precisely the central teaching of A Course in Miracles. But it’s okay. Very few of us are ready to experience broad metaphysical leaps into Heaven. Instead, we catch glimpses of it and savor its crumbs here in the world we call home. And while we believe we’re here, we have to do something.
People sometimes say “how do we wake up? How do we let go of thought? How do we experience Christ outside of the brain’s buzzing?”
There really is no good answer. We can’t force insight. When we make awakening a goal it becomes like the horizon which remains ever in the distance, dooming us to endless repetitive travel. Instead, we have to come to an intensity that is more passive than active, and to an awareness that is not reflecting back on itself (look at me!). If this seems altogether too vague and abstract, that’s because it really makes no sense to the ego. The ego wants to do; spirit is content to be.
So the capacity for passive intensity and non-self-reflective awareness is in the nature of a gift (given both universally and unconditionally). It is absolutely not an accomplishment. If at any level I perceive it as a spiritual badge of honor accruing to me and not to you, then I am missing it.
What we can do here in these bodies in this world is be kind, preferably without making a big holy deal of it. In my experience there is always someone around me who could use some help of some kind. When I am willing to help others – and keep the willingness simple (and keep the focus on them) – then the others show up and ask for help. It’s all very natural and straightforward and even fun.
Does this mean there is no relationship between acts of kindness and awakening? Can these little gestures in the separated world of illusion help stir us from the sleep of forgetfulness?
In at least one way – a tangential way – yes.
Taking care of other people tends to quieten the brain which in turns allows for the voice of the Holy Spirit to come through more clearly and consistently. Stillness is Spirit’s stage. And while a certain Bodhisattva inclination is not the only way to achieve this – forest walks before dawn, long drives, cutting wood, gazing through prisms and writing work are all effective – it is a reliably helpful way.
And putting us into sustained helpful contact with our Teacher is a central goal of A Course in Miracles. So in that sense, yes, service is wonderfully helpful.
I say all this to remind myself what matters. It is possible to get so wrapped up in the course or so involved in ideals of awakening or so invested in spiritual literature that our sleep only deepens and the ego’s stranglehold tightens. Sometimes the best way to learn about Love is to simply get out there and show a little of it.