Last summer, one of the few teachers to whom I have intelligently and fully submitted, told me to bring order and simplicity into my life. She was not familiar with A Course in Miracles but it didn’t matter. She saw the need and directed me accordingly.
That is the gift of real spiritual direction: there is no personality in it, no vested interest. It was very clear and – even though it has proved difficult to bring into application – very easy to follow.
Here is what I have learned about order.
The clearest thought I hold with respect to order is that it means I will not ask for what God has not already given. In all things I will endeavor to perceive only God’s plan for salvation. I will know the degree to which I am aligned with that plan by the joy – a natural, serious happiness that is not ecstasy, that gives of itself but does not broadcast itself – that I feel.
If we are going to bring that level of order to our lives, we have to be honest. Honesty requires attention and objectivity. And the first thing that honesty teaches us is that we are not serious – about order, about simplicity, about truth, about love.
This has been a hard lesson for me, to see that despite my intentions and despite my wordiness, I am not really interested in the truth to which A Course in Miracles points, so much as in learning about that truth.
The discerning and devoted ACIM student will not accept any substitute for knowledge – certainly not the relative level of language and shallow levels of learning. That is just more illusion.
The gift of God is given – it is inherent in what I am, I have it – and I go on only feigning interest. And so my life goes on the way it does – with likes and dislikes, and good news and bad news, and relationships that work and relationships that don’t, and all of it. What a world we make with our projections!
What do I gain by this? That is a good question! What does separation from God bring me that I am so intent on retaining, on not seeing to its undoing?
So I have to begin to observe, in an objective way, thought. I have to notice – in a non-judgmental way – what it is doing. Where is its energy directed? Where is it focused? What attracts it? What repels it?
What I discover when I probe a little – when I look objectively, so far as possible – is that the egoic self, the self I believe I am, is afraid of losing its personal identity. That’s all. And that is why learning is okay with it – learning is always a process that can lead in multiple directions. So long as I am learning about awakening, I am not actually awakening.
The course does not say that there is truth and illusion and a great big gray space in between. It says that Truth is true and only truth is true. Period. But learning sustains alternatives to truth. It makes choice endlessly possible and we give choice all our energy, all our attention. We make that decision to take choice seriously moment by moment, year by year, maybe lifetime by lifetime and it becomes habitual. We forget there is anything else.
And all the while the joy that truth would share is already within us. It already is.
Order in our lives means that we are arranging our lives in such a way as to direct our attention away from what is external. It is a way of saying that we are bent only on perceiving the truth as God created it. Order does not wasted time, and it does not tolerate mind-wandering. It refuses waste.
When this direction was given to me, my first thought was: okay, but what does that mean? What do I have to give up? And my teacher just smiled and after a moment, I did too. Because the first thing I had to see was that I am not giving anything up – I was making space in which to receive the gift of God. What else is there?
So I think this is very personal. I think order and simplicity mean different things to different people. But it is good to start by asking: where am I casual? Where am I using time for reasons other than to perceive truth as God created it? What relationships are helping and which are not?
It is important to remember that sometimes what works – what is helpful – is painful. So we are not just trying to be happy. We are not saying, well, this person is always antagonizing me so out with them. Very little in our lives cannot be turned in the direction of undoing if we are willing to look at it objectively. Some things and people will recede and some will come closer.
Order imparts a sense of responsibility: we realized that there is nothing to do and that only we can do it. If we do not commit to remembering God, then it is not going to happen. So a sense of gentle urgency becomes prevalant. We begin to see the extent to which the only way to receive anything is to give, and our attention shifts accordingly.
I said to my teacher, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
She said, “you can do it and you know you can do it. But you don’t know if you want to do it because you are still comfortable. You are still content with relative joy and relative happiness.”
We were standing by the flower garden – her favorite spot. I remember the sunflowers reached my shoulders then, their broad yellow faces opening to the sky. Bees hummed in the bright florets, working the nectar. I struggled for words to persuade her that I was serious, that I was ready for order, but none came. Sometimes it happens that way.
“It’s up to you,” she said after a moment of silence. “You can do it or not do it.”
That was how we left it.