On Simplicity and A Course in Miracles

Sometimes, in order to focus on A Course in Miracles, it is necessary to simplify our lives. It is not a mistake to create circumstances in which attention can be more readily summoned and sustained. Indeed, salvation depends upon it.

To be in the Kingdom is merely to focus your full attention on it. As long as you believe you can attend to what is not true, you are accepting conflict as your choice (T-7.III.4:1-2).

In the penultimate sense, this “focus” refers to an interior experience. It does not mean – or does not have to mean – that we spend all day in a chapel on our knees before a bloody cross.

Rather, our attention is directed to the altar in our mind, what Jesus refers to as “the only reality” (T-7.III.4:8).

For many of us, those are nice words – reassuring and even inspiring – but they are not yet our lived reality. So the question becomes: how do we develop this gift of attention that is itself the Kingdom of God? How do we make contact with this interior altar that is “a reflection of perfect Thought?”

It begins with identifying two things: first, what presently helps bring us to attention? And second, what presently impedes that movement?

We have to be very patient and gentle in asking these questions, because the ego is quick to jump in with its opinions and ideas and suggestions. Before we know it, we are off down its rabbit holes.

What brings you to stillness? To silence? What brings you closest to the intimation of God’s Love?

For me, the answer is walking. And then, the writing of certain teachers. And finally, slow and careful reading – often a sentence at a time – of A Course in Miracles.

Of course, the answer to these questions is deeply personal. It might be baking or gardening or quilting or kayaking or playing music or fasting or meditating. Your beloved teachers are almost certainly different than mine. And the way in which you experience your sacred texts, whatever they are, will be different as well.

The point is to be honest and clear about what works for us. And then – when we know – to begin to honor it as our spiritual practice. To give it all the space it requires and to brook no compromise with respect to it.

That idea – of compromise – brings us to the second element of making contact with our capacity to be attentive: we have to identify that which stands in our way.

This is often a much harder knot to untangle. In part, that’s because it means giving up and the egoic self – which believes deeply in sacrifice and scarcity – hates to surrender anything. So we can be very resistant to this step.

Yet we shouldn’t avoid it. Over the course of this summer I have had to make some very difficult choices about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I hope I did this lovingly and gently. But of course it is always hard.

I looked for those situations – whether they involved people or activities – that sapped my energy. Walking invigorates me at every level – physical, emotional, spiritual. But some people drain me. I left our meetings over coffee or whatever feeling tired or argumentative or unsure. That’s on me, of course! If I choose to see a brother or sister as difficult, that’s on me.

But I can also make the loving choice not to indulge the negativity, regardless of where it comes from. In this world, in our lives the way we perceive them, some people and activities are more nurturing and loving than others.

We have to be willing to say: this is not helping me make contact with God. It is okay – it is more than okay – to seek those learning situations that are most helpful to us.

Our sense of what is helpful and what is not will almost surely shift with time. Change is the essence of the separated world and so long as we wind our way through it in a learning posture, we are going to encounter new teachers and educational opportunities.

But our North Star should always be: does this [relationship, activity, thought system, thing et cetera) naturally help me deepen and clarify my remembrance of my unity with God?

Ruthless honesty is our ally, as is the willingness to follow its lead.

In a sense, when we do this, we are mirroring the Holy Spirit, whose mandate is to evaluate and educate.

He sorts out the true from the false in your mind, and teaches you to judge every thought you allow to enter it in the light of what God put there. Whatever is in accord with this light He retains, to strengthen the Kingdom in you. What is partly in accord with it He accepts and purifies. But what is out of accord entirely he rejects by judging against it (T-6.V.C.1:2-5).

It is true that the undoing contemplated in this passage is wholly of the mind, but the point remains. We must be vigilant on behalf of what strengthens our capacity to bring our attention to God. Why wouldn’t we be?

What distracts us from our practice is to be set lovingly and firmly aside. As the course does not encourage equivocation, nor should we as we make space for it in our lives.

All of this reminds me something Tara Singh wrote in Excerpts from the Forty Days in the Wilderness. I quote it here in full and without alteration.

Simplicity introduces one
to self-sufficiency.
Without simplicity,
you will never know non-dependence.

Will you value
and resort to the expediences of the system
or will you live according to
your own conviction?

Your unwillingness to change your lifestyle
binds you to the world of compromises.
To have something of God to give the world
eliminates insecurity
and frees one from the external system.

The earnest question will emerge
out of the urgency to change the lifestyle,
FOR THEN THE WHOLE LIFE WILL BE
BEHIND THE QUESTION.

IS YOUR LIFESTYLE NOW
RELATED TO REALITY?

That is a good question, isn’t it?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jeanne August 14, 2013, 12:25 pm

    Hi Sean, I’ve been pondering today’s blog posting, contemplating what stuff to get rid of in order to simplify my life. For me, there is stuff around the house that I have, that I don’t necessarily want to have, but feel a need to keep.

    For instance, I have several large drawers of completed swimming pool plans and documentation for previous clients. I keep them for three reasons. 1) In case the client ever calls back and needs info from them or wants to reference the old plans regarding a new build. 2) I may need to reference an old pool to see how I did it (if it was complex). 3) This one is fear-based. I keep the plans in case there is ever any lawsuits over something.

    I’m reasoning this out as I write. Regarding #1, I do have repeat clients but they are far and few between. And typically they want something completely different than they did before. If we do need to reference something, it is usually within the first year of building it. #2) I can keep only the final drawing as opposed to all other supporting documentation. #3 Lawsuits-if I really trust God, why would I even ponder this possibility for a second?

    #3 is the one that takes a leap of faith. Does anyone have any comments about that?

    Okay, then you know about my relationship with my husband. I mentally began to ponder if I should simplify my life by not being with him any more. The next thought that came in was, “Simplify your life by changing your mind about him and others.” I’ve asked the Holy Spirit, every day, to help me with the way I view him and other people who I don’t favor. This has become my number 1 prayer and goal since the affair. I never thought about it in the terms that it would simply my life. What a wonderful concept.

    Thanks so much for bringing another new awareness to the Course for me!

    • Sean Reagan August 14, 2013, 1:28 pm

      Hi Jeanne,

      I absolutely love this phrase: “Simplify your life by changing your mind . . .” That’s really beautiful and so purely ACIM. Thank you.

      With respect to practical stuff in the world, I tend to just be, well, practical. For example, as a freelance writer, I tend to save all the contracts I sign for quite a while. Even after I’ve been paid, I hold onto them. It just seems prudent. Same with taxes and lesson plans and grade books and so forth.

      In terms of protecting against future lawsuits – you’re talking to a former lawyer here! Is there an industry standard? Do you build in one particular state and are there relevant statutes of limitation? Does your insurer advise you to keep plans for X length of time?

      In the world of separation, lawsuits happen. Stuff happens. And it’s here that we believe we live – and since what we believe is real to us – it makes sense to be prudent. I could say that every time I drive or ride in a car I’m in God’s hands and don’t need to fear death but I still fasten my seat belt! We can be faithful and practical, both.

      Knowing that we’re doing something based on fear is very helpful. We can even keep doing the thing. But in my experience, the longer we look at it and hold it in the light of understanding, it begins to lose its hold over us. In a way, we follow the Holy Spirit’s lovely guidance to you today: we change our minds and simplification follows.

      Thanks, as always, for reading and writing, Jeanne.

      Sean

      • Jeanne August 16, 2013, 1:00 pm

        Thanks, as always, Sean. I hadn’t thought about sharing the fear that I have about lawsuits with the Holy Spirit. lol My m. o. is to share things that involve people or typically when I perceive I have some ailment. I will turn this over to the Holy Spirit and let It do what it does best.

        Regarding statute of limitations, I have no idea. I think that God put me into this career because of all of the possibilities of things going wrong, i.e. encroaching on other properties, people drowning, just totally messing up the plans in some way that construction goes haywired. This is another way to challenge my peace of mind and for me to share my fears with the Holy Spirit and know that I am totally protected.

        I am so happy that I found your site! You don’t know how much you (and others) have helped me as I’ve gone down some of the most difficult roads of my journey.

        • Sean Reagan August 16, 2013, 1:06 pm

          Thanks, Jeanne. I’m glad you’re here too. Glad we’re all here!

          It is true that our lives present the perfect learning opportunities. We are always where we are supposed to be, and when we are attentive – and willing to share with the Holy Spirit as you noted – then we are sure to wake up. We truly have all the resources we need.

          It’s interesting, you know – I can totally see how the pool business can be incredibly stressful. I’m not sure I could handle it! But at the same time, swimming is so much fun! So you are also spreading some joy, too.

          Talk to you soon –

          Sean

  • Anil August 15, 2013, 1:32 am

    Hi Jeanne –
    Since you asked for comments from anyone, I will offer a thought here. (As an aside, I have been moved by your deeply personal sharing of what is happening in your life re: marriage, husband, infidelity, etc, and it is on many levels that I feel that gratitude — it has clarified somethings for me, but I am unable to articulate what they are, I just feel it somewhere deep within me !).

    back to the matter on-hand (:, I would say that on point #3, I would not be equating Trust in God with lawsuits in the world. God loves us, and we love God. Lawsuits happen or don’t happen in a chaotic world. The two I tend to see as two different “worlds”.

    I would, of course, not wish to *increase* any fear you may feel around lawsuits, so if it helps you to forget what I wrote above, please do so.

    The Course is intensely personal, and makes for difficult conversation even amongt those of us (like everyone on this site) who sincerely attempt to live and incorporate its Theory in our daily lives.

    I hope the above makes some sense, if not, I beg your (and everyone’s forgiveness for this long-winded comment (:)

    Love,
    Anil

    • Jeanne August 16, 2013, 1:34 pm

      Hi Anil,
      Please, no apologies needed here. : ) I appreciate your thoughts. One of the things that I realized early on (while studying the Course) was that, if I could calm myself enough to ask God to take care of a problem (remember Jesus cannot help us if we are in a state of doubt or fear), and if after asking for its release, I would let it go, that problem would disappear. This happened every single time until my business got so busy that I forgot to continue to connect with God. That’s where my journey into hell began (other than the first time around when all of us decided to disconnect with God).

      Your comment about two worlds and Sean’s about the world of separation made me realize that I am giving over my power to the belief that things of this crazy, made-up world will undoubtably cast me into hell. As I sit here in defense (within my own mind) of keeping my documentation and beliefs about lawsuits, I realize that I am totally safe as long as I can remember to do what I said above.

      You made me realize that I am thinking within the world I made rather than the world that God would have all of us be in. There are two different worlds but we are not subject to the hell one that we made. This is where we would use denial as the Course would have us use it. So I am going to use it now. I am declaring the following to this world. “As a holy son of God, I deny the things of my made-up world, including lawsuits, to have any power over me.”

      Okay, with that in mind, I am going to clear out the files and keep only the ones that I may want to reference for future designs. : )

      Thanks, I am happy that you shared your thoughts with me!

      As far as my life with my husband, in a million years, I never thought that I would be able to look at him with the thought that he is perfect in spite of what he has done and still may be doing. Mentally, I know that I am not quite there, but the Holy Spirit has brought me most of the way. And what this whole infidelity thing has done for me is this; I am picking out people with whom I hold any kind of grudge (or misunderstanding) against and asking the H.S. to change my mind about them. It is working. I am at more peace than I have been in a long time. Even though there are “no difficulties in miracles,” I look at the fidelity as “bigger” than someone who is not nice to me. Because the one seems bigger to me, it is easier to wrap my mind around forgiving the people who committed the “less evil sin” or rather, looking at what they did as a mistake and not a sin.

      Love,
      Jeanne

      • Anil August 21, 2013, 6:28 am

        Hi Jeanne, thanks for writing back. It set my mind at ease to know that I was not being intrusive in my comment/note to you. Sorry for not writing back earlier. I wrote that comment to you from an early morning browsing session of my favorite acim blogs (this is one of them) in Berlin last week, and now quite some distance away in Vietnam today.

        Seeing the globe as an image in my mind is taking quite some doing these days (:

        Hope all well with you today, and am sure we will see each other here, at Sean’s place again, some time in the future.

        Love,
        Anil

  • Bet Carbery August 21, 2013, 7:53 am

    I agree with you Sean – one of the ego’s big tricks is to be perpetually busy with a thousand things and problems. For a lifetime, I have been caught up in this whirl. I retired a few months ago but still have to see to my mother (98 years old) and boy what a lesson she’s been to me. After I retired I was left almost bereft and decided I must fill my time and meet people by joining various clubs and organisations, ie walking, poetry, etc, etc. until I realized that I was creating the same old pattern. Having time was unnerving, lonely and frightening even and I had to face myself – a supremely difficult process that continues. So I’m learning to let things evolve, learning to let go and let God and just sometimes, not often, I experience a sort of laying down of the burdens.

    I think it’s a good idea to clear the house. It’s taken me a couple of years and stuff I couldn’t get rid of at first I now find I’m willing to release. It’s great to have space in cupboards, on shelves and in my mind and the house is easier to clean and maintain. I don’t even have a television and I am amazed, when I go shopping, at how little I need.
    Ah yes the ego keeps us for ever busy and creates so much complexity and confusion that we are left with no space to just be which is the ego’s whole idea.

    It is a practical suggestion to simplify one’s life but it is more emotionally demanding than seems the case but one becomes more and more adventurous and it’s very freeing.
    Bet

    • Sean Reagan August 21, 2013, 4:53 pm

      I am more and more realizing that the practical suggestions are not in any way separated from the more spiritual ones. In fact, it is only by clearly and attentively and lovingly engaging with the details of our lives that we can begin to glimpse their illusory nature and consequently the light behind them or the breath that pulses through all of it and us as well. I share that sense of surprise of seeing how little we actually need to do. You are right – the ego’s enterprise is simply to distract us. When we don’t buy into it, what Bill Thetford called “the other way” emerges naturally. It is always there waiting for us!

      Thanks, Bet. It’s always nice to hear from you.

      ~ Sean

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