(Note: all photographs these days are taken by my daughter Fionnghuala)

It can be helpful to see the way in which everything is given equally (or appears equally), and how the extent to which there appears to be inequality is essentially a function of our narrative impulse.


The village from the far side of the river . . .

Imagine someone places on the table before you a chocolate cupcake with lemon frosting, a pocket atlas of the United States, and a severed hand.

After you’ve given them a little attention and judged them – cupcake tantalizing, atlas meh, hand gross – you are told that the cupcake is actually hand-carved, hand-painted bamboo from an artist whose subject is food and whose mode is realism. The pocket atlas was used by a white supremacist to locate black churches in which to plant and detonate bombs. The hand is a remnant of an emergency surgery that saved a child’s life.

So maybe now your judgment goes like this:

Cupcake: still beautiful but less accessible (can’t eat it, probably can’t afford it);
Atlas: Frightening, offensive and sad; and
Hand: Still gross but very grateful a child will live.

Our sense of things is different when we have a story to go with them. In a lot of ways, the story supercedes the image. We tend to trust narrative more than the perception – the images – out of which narrative rises.

We really like a good story.

It is helpful to see this clearly and, with respect to how it plays out in experience, to have some intimacy with it.

Basically we can ask these questions: What is given? What is narrative – how is it given? And what is the relationship between narrative and what is given, if any?


The river flowing east behind the village towards our home.

The focus in these questions is on experience – on what is here. We are looking at the moment and the way it is showing up.

I said earlier that everything is given equally. Consider the cupcake, the atlas and the hand again. They all appear in the same way – are held by the same gaze – and subject to the same perceptual process. That is what I mean by “given equally.”

It is like saying that a rose and cat litter box smell different, but smelling itself is not different based on whether you’re sniffing a rose or a litter box. In that sense, the rose and the cat litter are “given equally.”

Two observations. First, you might say okay, they may be given equally, but roses and cat litter are waaay different.

That’s a fair point we’ll get to in a second.

The other observation is that science makes clear that, in fact, with respect to our senses that everything is not given equally. Our senses, in conjunction with our fast-processing brain, overlook stuff all the time.

And even with respect to what we are aware of, it’s not actually a cupcake, atlas and hand – in truth, it’s just a bunch of atoms.


Walking with Chrisoula & the kids on the road behind the river . . . 

Those are also good points but at this juncture they are actually distractions. They imply that we are pursuing truth or reality – that we want to be right about what we see and how we talk about it.

But the point of the exercise is not to be right – it’s simply to be aware of experience as it is given, as it is showing up. Even if it is a lie, or an illusion, or somehow other than how it appears, it is still here. It is still what is showing up.

We are giving attention to experience as experience is given. Just that.

When we do this, sooner or later, we are going to have to wrestle with the appearance or presence of narrative. That’s the first point mentioned above – that cat litter and roses are two totally different things. Narrative does that – gives these two appearances names, judges them, and so forth. There is whatever is showing up – whatever is given – but it includes (or sure seems to include) narrative.

In other words, how can we see a tree apart from – or prior to – all our ideas about a tree? In what way are the stories we tell – or that are being told and of which we are aware – separate from what else appears?

Is it not all one movement, one flux, one welter?

Seeing the way narrative and observation appear intertwined is the point of the exercise. Narrative does change what we see. It is entangled. But how? To what degree?

We really have to answer these questions for ourselves. When we look at a tree, what happens? Where and how and when do ideas about the tree show up? Where do they come from? Is there some agency involved – some “self” that is making decisions about what to think?

Is someone or something in charge? How do we know? How can – or should we even – talk about this?


Hills, the far side of which Emily Dickinson once gazed at . . .

Reading about all this stuff is fun and interesting, and I do it a lot, but it’s also important to just hunker down and give attention, and find out for ourselves what’s going on, what it means, and where we are in all of it.

When I began to study giving attention – when I was unexpectedly made welcome at that strange little school – that was really the first lesson. In some respects it’s the only lesson: “nobody can do this for you, so get cracking.”

Spiritual paths can become crutches very quickly. A Course in Miracles functions this way for many students, me included. The going gets tough for whatever reason and we default to course lingo and ideology. “This is an illusion,” “bodies aren’t real,” “sickness is wrong-minded thinking,” et cetera.

And, when we do that, we tend to invoke our preferred spiritual teachers, parroting their words as if they are our own. Ken Wapnick, Tara Singh, Sri Aurobindo, Thomas Merton . . .

To the extent there’s anything “wrong” with this, it’s that we stop looking at our actual experience in favor of a model of experience built by thought. Confusing models for that which is modeled is akin to confusing the map for the territory. It leads to incoherence and conflict.

So a point came – for me, a little over eighteen months ago – when it became necessary to “let go” of the course in order to see (or begin to see, maybe) that to which the course was pointing. The practice was no longer to study and apply a particular method, but to simply give attention in a sustained and gentle way without worrying about what attention was being given to.

Eventually, all this “giving attention” or “noticing” arrives at a basic question: who or what is giving attention?

In a lot of ways, that is the whole game. That is the question. Answer it – or see why it cannot be answered – and that’s it. Game over (or game dissolved).


A succession of bridges – one covered – by the old dairy farm . . .

In my experience, that inquiry (who or what is giving attention) is easier to handle when approached slowly and with care. I think of it like this: the morning of my wedding, I shaved more attentively and carefully, than on the morning before (or after).

That is the kind of care and attention to which I am referring. I want to bring it to the inquiry, and this means that I want to go slow enough to notice when I am parroting Ken Wapnick or Tara Singh. Am I just repeating what someone else said?

I want to notice when I am trying to sound slick and smart. Am I using phrases like “the divine et cetera” or pretending Nisargadatta’s insights are mine? Am I giving up under the guise of science – “well, it’s all atoms and algorithms and I can’t do math, so screw it?”

Those are clues that I am not earnestly looking at at what is given. I’m in denial and on repeat.

This “giving attention” thing is not easy. A lot that masquerades as insight is just the same old same-old wearing a new mask. And it’s not a problem really. It, too, is given. But there is a tendency to use it as a form of consenting to distraction. It’s good to notice what thought is up to, but it’s not good to get so invested in it that we don’t notice anything else.

The inquiry is more important than what shows up. Even the many insights that arrive – and there are some lovely and helpful ones, like bright stars in the sky – are going to pass eventually. So we just sit and let them pass, and notice their passage.

That is a nice metaphor, actually. We are just star-gazers. We’re just sitting quietly letting the sky be the sky. And soon enough, realize we aren’t looking “at” the sky – we are “in” the sky.

And then realize that there is nobody looking – there is only looking. There is only this. This this.


I had a nice long talk once with an individual who teaches ACIM professionally. They were smart and committed, and had reflected a lot on their practice and comprehension of A Course in Miracles. I learned a lot.

Near the end, this individual advised me to stop following politics and to stop being politically active. The premise of politics was conflict which meant you had to choose sides. Therefore it was dualistic and incompatible with a nondual spiritual practice such as A Course in Miracles.

It was not the first time I heard some variation of that argument; nor was it the last. When conflict arises, course students often retreat to ideals of nondualism as a way of not looking closely at what is going on.

This is an understandable impulse, and I am not immune to it. It is hard to be in the midst of conflict without trying to solve it or get away from it, and it is also hard to look at the disagreeable material evoked by conflict.

Spiritualizing resistance and denial is always easier than getting our hands dirty.

The teacher who as telling me to turn away from politics was really saying two things. First, they were asking me to validate their experience by replicating it.

Second, they were tracking a thought process that went approximately like this:

a. Following politics and engaging in political action is stressful;
b. I don’t like stress;
c. Therefore stress is bad;
d. Therefore, stress isn’t spiritual;
e. I am spiritual so I can’t be stressed;
f. I need to remove politics from my experience, but I can’t admit to the stress because that undermines my sense of myself as spiritual;
g. Therefore, I’ll say politics is dualistic and incompatible with ACIM; so that
h. Turning away from politics is what authentic and correct ACIM students do.

This (torturous) logic mirrors in many ways a thought process I have indulged many times over the years. It is not unfamiliar; it is (somewhat) easily remedied.

Going forward, this post has two themes:

1. If X stresses you out, then stop doing X. “It stresses me out” is a perfectly fine reason to stop doing something; and

2. You can be political and a student of A Course in Miracles.

An interesting exercise is to sit quietly for an hour or so and give attention to what happens. Don’t worry about what happens; just notice it.

Now don’t notice it. Don’t have any experience. Just stop. Don’t get off the train, stop the train – and the tracks and the earth on which the tracks lie and the galaxy through which the earth spins, and . . .

You can’t do it. This is the most important thing I learned in the School of Giving Attention. Whatever we want to call it, however we want to explain it, whatever we want to do with it, there is something going on. Where “we” are, experience is.

There is this: this this. There is always this.

This – whatever it is – appears to include an almost infinite array of content. Every human being you meet looks different. That is such an amazing thing! And they wear different clothes! And they sound different! And walk differently! And some of them have dogs or babies or umbrellas or ice cream cones.

Better than any movie is to just sit quietly on a bench and watch the infinite variety of content stream by. And it works no matter where you sit: in the city, in the forest, in the chicken pen, the garden, a classroom, a mosque.

We can get very metaphysical and intellectual about this exercise – and from time to time I do – but that is not the point right now.

Right now the point is just to notice what is happening, and then to notice that – again, whatever it is, however it works – you can’t stop it.

You can’t stop it, but you can respond to it.

You can pat somebody’s dog, or compliment their hand bag, or buy them a bagel, or give them a big hug. You can write a poem or an essay, take a photograph, buy a book about phenomenology, go home and bake bread, or do yoga (street yoga!).

Or you can just keep sitting there.

Whatever you do will have an effect on the stream, but it won’t end the stream. You can make a little splash or a big splash but the stream keeps going.

It is important to see this.

This is a helpful insight because it teaches us that what we do is not as big a deal as we think. The stream – experience, God, Life or whatever – is not at stake in our choosing.

Therefore, if something stresses you out – Donald Trump, say, or wordy ACIM writers – then just walk away.

We are allowed to do that. It doesn’t make us more or less spiritual.

(Really, it’s not possible to be “more” or “less” spiritual. Those are meaningless qualifications. The stream doesn’t care about them – they are both just floating through it).

It follows then that if we are allowed to just walk away from something, then we can also walk towards it. From the perspective of the stream, does it matter?

It doesn’t.

So if we want to be political, then we get political. If we want to choose a political cause or candidate, then we choose one. If we want to be a nasty woman, or march with nasty women, then we get nasty. Choosing a political stand is not different than choosing not to take a stand.

Democrat vs. Republican


Politics vs. No politics


Nasty vs. Not nasty

We are still choosing, right?

Here is the thing. Part of this experience of experience that we talked about earlier includes choices. They are present. You can see them; you can experience them.

Again, put off the metaphysical dialogue (about free will, agency, discrete selves et cetera) for the time being. Let’s chill out with being smart or correct.

Instead, without a lot of drama or analysis, let’s just see the way that life includes this sense of being local to a body. Let’s just see the way that apparently localized life includes this capacity for response.

And let’s ask: what responses are helpful? That is literally the only question we need to ask and answer. If we can do anything, then what is the best something?

This post is already too long so I won’t keep going. I’ll just make this last observation: the best something – which helps us and helps others, which makes everyone softer and happier – is always the something that is loving. Kindness, patience, generosity, mercy, good humor . . .


Years ago a fellow student who had spent time with Tara Singh criticized Singh for using the phrase “bring into application.” Singh meant that it was not enough to study and learn: one had to actually embody that learning, to make it the fact of experience rather than an a mere ideal. The student felt that this was a form of dualism inconsistent with A Course in Miracles.

These kinds of metaphysical debates – is so-and-so sufficiently nondualistic, is so-and-so right in their understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles – are not as interesting to me as they once were. And it’s true they once were. If you scan old posts, you’ll find plenty of occasions where in spirit if not outright declaration I am taking sides on the nondualism and how-to-do-ACIM-right dialogue.

My interest in those dialogues began to abate when I discovered the role attention plays in our experience. Attention is present and responsive. It is alive. And once I began to see this clearly, and enter into relationship with it, the intellectual issues began to recede. Who cares about the physics of swimming when you can actually splash around in the waves?

This is not to say – as yesterday’s post makes clear – that I am opposed to intellectual analysis as a spiritual practice. Indeed, it is central to my experience of the course. I am by nature a student, and happiest when studying. My interest and facility with A Course in Miracles arises from that.

But – in my experience – Tara Singh was largely correct. Learning without application can be a form of resistance and denial. There is a difference between one who studies mercy and one who brings food and blankets to the homeless. Study is meant to inform application; application is more durable and fructive when informed by study. So balance matters.

Consciousness and awareness are experienced in a local way. If we look into our experience, it revolves around this body and this mind. Now that may not be a real or sustainable model for a lot of reasons – and we can talk about that, and we can engage the semantics – but doing so doesn’t bring the body or its prevalence to any end. All bodies serve the same approximate function: birth, hunger, reproduce, die.

And – within that cyclic function – to be aware. That is, to split into that which is observing and that which is observed. This division is an illusion: we are not separate from what is observed. We are what we are observing.

Believing the division is real – that we are not what we are studying – is what A Course in Miracles calls separation, and it is the primary source of our woe, both personally and collectively.

Intellectual study can bring us to the insight that the observer/observed divide is not reality but a form of perception. Intellectual study can give us the data, helpfully arrange it, and walk us through understanding it. But – and this matters – it cannot teach us how to live with the understanding.
That is an embodied holistic process and – kind of like parenting – you just have to do it. Nobody can do it for you.

Ask yourself this question: have you ever reached a point or had the insight that every spiritual book or essay or video you consume is saying the same approximate thing? Do you think while reading or viewing, “I know this?”

That’s an interesting juncture to reach, because it allows for this further question: if I already know all this, then why am I still so fucking petty and sad and confused and conflicted and so on?

The answer is: because you haven’t brought your vast admirable understanding into application.

Of course I am describing my own experience here. I’m not judging you. Probably you are a more tightly-wrapped box of chocolates than me. And no hard feelings if that’s so. But if this analysis resonates a little, then it’s worth asking: what would application of known spiritual ideals look like? Feel like?

And are you ready now to live that way?

For me, it is imperative not to do more reading in response to that question. There are only two answers to the question of readiness: yes or no. “Maybe” is just no another way. If you say no, you have to find out why you’re not ready. But if you’re ready – and probably you’re ready, or why else would you be reading this – then you have to leap. You have to leave the blue book behind and step into experience as a healed and healing presence.

All that really means is that we are giving attention to what is happening and discerning what, in this moment as it is given, is a just, creative and loving response.

This is harder than it sounds and leads to plenty of errors and missteps but it also speeds up the vivid here-and-nowness of inner peace.

This practical application of love is precisely what A Course in Miracles advocates. It

. . . emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology . . . It’s only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher (from the Preface).

Notwithstanding the various dramas that attend the course community – are Gary Renard’s ascended masters real, did Ken Wapnick wrongly edit the course, and blah blah blah – all ACIM is really saying is give attention, be kind and gentle in an ordinary way, and don’t worry about either the seeming big stuff or the seeming small stuff.

This is going to resemble an embodied dualistic experience! Don’t fret about that and don’t resist it. Don’t make a big deal out of it in any way. When we’re hungry, eat, and when we’re flowing with the divine Jesus river, flow, and when we’re tired and cranky, we remind ourselves it happens to everyone and try not to make things worse.

In a funny way, after many years of study into all these complex and fascinating philosophical and theological issues, I’m back to the playground where the best rule is simply to play well with others.


The point is always to find and utilize what is helpful, understanding that “helpfulness” is relative, contextual and subject to change. Basically, we are looking for a way to peacefully and creatively exist within an existence that seems to be independent of us.

In order to discern what is helpful, we have to have a clear sense of who is being helped and what they need help with.

bucket in thimbleberry

I don’t know why I like this photograph so much but I do. It makes me happy, and happiness matters. Perhaps that is sufficient.

A person who is building a house will be happy when a carpenter shows up. A person who wants to learn how to play piano, will not be happy when a driving instructor shows up.

A person who is building a house will not be happy when the carpenter starts digging the foundation with a hammer. The person who wants to learn how to play piano will be happy when she learns the driving instructor actually moonlights as a piano teacher.

So there is no such thing as absolute helpfulness – something that works in every situation. There are just applicable instances of helpfulness, here and there, for which we can be grateful.

In our study of A Course in Miracles, which is so often the latest iteration in a life given to spiritual seeking, what do we want?

In other words, what is the project for which we want help?

Clarity is useful in this regard. Honesty is useful. Saying in a clear simple way what we want is usually a good step to getting it, or at least figuring out if getting it is what we really want.

Sometimes we are vague because we don’t know what we want, and sometimes we are vague because we don’t want to say what we want, and sometimes we are vague because we don’t want to face what we want.

For example, in the summer of 2013 I promoted myself as a teacher of A Course in Miracles. I offered audio classes, a book, and 1:1 teaching sessions. I charged money for this.

At the time, I said frequently that my goal was to be helpful to folks for whom my particular approach to the course was resonant. But it would have better to say “I need to financially justify all the time I spend writing and thinking about ACIM and this seems like a good way.”

And if I was being really really honest I would have said something like, “I want to be a well-known, well-paid teacher of ACIM like Ken Wapnick or Marianne Williamson and this seems like the right way to get on that path.”

But that level of honesty and forthrightness was not possible then. I wasn’t averse to helping others but really, the exercise was about me.

I am not beating up on myself here. I didn’t give the latter two answers because attention and willingness didn’t reach that far. That happens and it’s no big deal, other than that it tends to slow down and possibly complicate remembering that there really isn’t anything to do because we are already home.


A row of sunflowers at a distance . . . Kind of standing guard over the garden and gazing at the far hills.

Experience is richly and beautifully simple, but we get in the way. We have plans and ideas and agendas, and the sad part is, we can’t always see them. We get confused, and in our confusion, we make choices that leave us sad or hurt or guilty or what-have-you.

So we have to be as clear and honest as we can be about what we want from our practice of A Course in Miracles and then we have to be patient. We have to let the spiritual chips fall where they may.

So again: why are we studying A Course in Miracles? Do we want to wake up? Gain inner peace? Gain some useful strategy for navigating life? Get rich and famous? What?

For me, at some point in mid-2015, the answer was: “I want to wake up.”

Once we say it – once we get it clear and simple – then we can start to look into it a bit. It’s like buying a house. We can talk all day about our dream house, but when we start looking at what we can afford, where we want to be, and what’s available given those restrictions, then the experience narrows pretty fast. We stop dreaming and we get to work.

What does “work” look like in this context? In this find-what-works-and-work-it context?

I say that I want to wake up. That leads to an important series of question: how do I know that I’m asleep? Because I must know that, right? Otherwise, waking up would not be an ideal.

And if I do know I’m asleep, then how did I learn that I’m asleep? How do I know this is sleep and not wakefulness? I must have known wakefulness once, right? Otherwise, how would I know what it means to sleep? I’d have nothing to compare it to.

And if I know what “waking up” means, then how did I learn? Is it inherent? Did I learn it? If so, who was my teacher?

That’s a lot of material and I want to look into it all. I want to go slowly into each question – in a careful attentive way.

And I want to find out if I need help doing so.

So I sit quietly and give attention to the first question: am I awake? Or am I asleep? How can I tell?

When I do this, other questions arise. They are like sub-questions to the main question. First, I realize it would be useful to define those phrases – what is meant by “wake” and “asleep.”


moss on the west side of beams of wood on the chicken pen . . .

To get to those definitions, I start with my Oxford English Dictionary (I know, I know – I’m a snob). I might detour into Latin textbooks – knowing the roots of words can be very insightful. Then I will look at ACIM primary and secondary materials – the text, workbook and manual for teachers, and then the main teachers on whose work I rely.

Then I might start going outside the course. What did Dōgen say? How about Schrödinger? Husserl? Emily Dickinson? Are there contemporary academics looking into this? What are they saying?

This takes time and energy. And it only works if it’s actually helpful. So how do I know if it’s helpful?

First, is the information I’m getting answering questions and prompting others? If so, then it’s helpful.

But beyond that, am I having fun? I’m not saying that my intellectual approach to the course is everybody’s cup of tea or even should be. But for me, it is more than just useful. It does more than just provide relevant data.

It is also fun. It calls to me in the sense that it’s easy to come back to. It’s not work. It heals me.

So that is another way to think of helpfulness: what is its relationship to joy?

Gradually, the process of vigorous rigorous intellectual study and sustained investigation (inquiry through giving attention) will yield an answer. A point comes when you are seeing the same thing over and over and there is less and less to inquire about.

In the case at hand – in this inquiry I undertook in response to “I want to wake up” and the sprawling interrogatories spawned thereby – the answer is: I already am awake but I am consistently overlooking this fact.

So now there is a new question, right? How can I stop overlooking this fact?

And I’m off again. The OED, A Course in Miracles, Steven Hagen, David Bohm . . .

I am not suggesting this sort of granular academic and contemplative approach to A Course in Miracles is the only way to go. My point is that in my experience, it works. It is helpful because it answers fundamental questions related to my purpose for studying A Course in Miracles and it makes me happy.

Most people who read me closely are either already awake and patiently waiting on me to figure out I am too, or they are ready to take the final series of steps in their own awakening, where “take the final series of steps” has an intellectual aspect to it which is related to better understanding certain ideas and concepts.

I seem to have some facility for that understanding, even as I am clumsy and dumbfounded in myriad other ways.


This birch tree is in the forest where a couple of trails meet . . . I love it very much, am always grateful when it survives rough winters . . . touch it when I pass on my walks, like genuflecting at an altar . . .

Recently I was playing chess with my son and we reached the endgame. The “endgame” is that point where the next series of moves will conclude the game. There are only three possible outcomes – you win, you lose, or you draw. It isn’t a mystery.

Even though you know there are only three outcomes, you still have to play the game. Knowing the result and getting the result – experiencing the result – are not the same thing.

Awakening is like that. Generally, we know the outcome before it is actually integrated into our embodied experience. But we still have to walk the walk. We still have to “wake up,” where “wake up” usually just means realizing that we already are woke.

So the suggestion is to look into this: what do you want? How do you know it’s what you want? What is helpful in getting it? And so forth.

Give attention to this inquiry in a gentle sustained way and see what happens, adjusting as apparently necessary.


One thing about the present moment is its fullness – which is also a kind of emptiness. Everything is there and nothing is there. There is only thing in the present moment and it has no name and yet everyone knows what it is.


chains in the barn awaiting use

You can’t carry anything into the present. It is fascinating to observe this: if you give your attention wholly to the present, to what is here and now, then you have to let go of everything.

So our anger has to be put aside, and our grievances, and our hopes and dreams. Everything. We can pick them back up if we want – they won’t leave us – but we can’t take them into the present.

The present is still and clear and pristine. It is like the center of the potter’s wheel – the very center – which is still and does not move, and yet its stillness is integral to the whole project (the tool, the materials, the craft, the product).

From the still clear center, the whole emerges in this or that form.

What is being described here isn’t about a religion or a spiritual practice, though it most often shows up in those contexts.

It is just a fact. Attention is a fact: it is here. And it is responsive. You can give it to anything you like – another body, a piece of cake, a book, a song. And you can also give it wholly to the present.

You can bring attention right into the present moment: right into the stillness: right into the silence: into the fullness that is utterly empty.

My practice of giving attention – which a few years ago became a sort of de facto ACIM practice, largely supplanting the lessons – has really become the simple act of being present.

Attention yearns for the present. The more it is allowed to rest there, the more it naturally *is there.

Present moment awareness – what A Course in Miracles refers to as the Holy Instant – is the space in which a natural clarification occurs. We see the way in which our so-called problems – collectively, the ego – are simply constructs that arise in thought.

They only have affects because we give consent to them. They are easily discarded.

It’s true that they are easily picked up again but that’s okay. We can put them down again, too.

And slowly, we begin to acclimate to life in which these constructs are seen for what they are: mere idols for our wandering attentiveness. They are differences enshrined in psychological and spiritual language and so believed. They are ideals by which we hold truth and reality at bay.

They come and go – no more, no less. Therefore we evoke the Introduction to the course:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists (In.2:2-3).

The Holy Instant is the experience of knowing this as a fact: not as an idea to be explicated or analyzed. Not as an experience to be hoarded as evidence of our spiritual progress or specialness.

It is simply the simple truth, and the present moment – the Holy Instant – is where we see it most clearly and helpfully.


Yet the essential thing is learning that you do not know (T-14.XI.1:1).

To be a student of A Course in Miracles is in part to embrace humility and in part to develop a tolerance for uncertainty. It is not only these things, but these things help. They can buttress a spiritual practice that is bent on seeing clearly there is neither anything to do nor anyone to do it.


Getting close enough to life to love and keep it going,

To be possessed of humility is to be humble. “Humble” comes from the Latin root “humus” which means earth or ground. We tend to think of humility in terms of social structure and where we are on it relative to others, but we can also think of it in terms of being grounded – of being close to the earth in a stable and nurturing way.

This sense of humility also encourages us to think in terms of actual humus – the dark soft organic matter composed of centuries of decomposition. The bones of animals, the fallen limbs of trees, leaves and feathers, rain and moth wings – all of it settles and is gently converted to a rich fertile soil from which life springs.

It is as if humus says to us: there is no death, there is only life being born again and again.

So let’s say that when we are humble, we are turning towards the ground – to the source of life itself. We are consenting to be born again, this time eternally, as that from which all instances of Life spring.

In a way, that’s pretty fancy talk, and possibly too vague to be helpful.

The point is to conceive of humility not in terms of how we are behaving with other people, or how they are perceiving us, but rather as decision to turn our attention to the Source of life. We want to discover our rootedness in it, our inseparability from it. We are not separate from life observing life – we are life gazing at itself, one with itself, forever.

To be humble is to give attention to what grounds us in Life.

The more still we become, the more clearly we see that there is nothing to do and – importantly – nobody to do it.

That’s humility. What about uncertainty?

To be uncertain means that we don’t know. A Course in Miracles suggests that being still – that resting in uncertainty – is a prerequisite to peace.

I do not know what anything, including this, means. And so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now (T-14.XI.6:7-9).

Most of us don’t want to say we don’t know what anything means. We may not know everything, but to say we know nothing is a bridge too far. Yet the course urges us to adopt precisely that posture. What happens when we do?

Our lives are composed of reactions. If we give careful attention, this is clear. Things appear to happen, we judge them as good or bad, then take action based on those judgments, and then judge the outcomes, which is really just more stuff happening . . .

On and on it goes.

If we can say with clarity that we don’t know what anything means, then our foundation upon which to exercise judgment is undone. In that moment, it no longer functions.

And so in that moment, we perceive Life with great clarity, and see that we share it in unconditional ways.

Light is unlimited, and spreads across the world in quiet joy. All those you brought with you will shine on you, and you will shine on them in gratitude because they brought you here (T-13.VI.11:8-9).

The slower we are to judge, the more likely we are to begin to notice that we are neither central players nor particular reference points with respect to life. It’s happening, and we’re happening in and with it, but we’re not making the whole thing go. And the whole thing isn’t happening just to entertain us.

This insight attends us when we are no longer interfering with life. The more still we become, the more clearly we see that there is nothing to do and – importantly – nobody to do it.

Uncertainty doesn’t mean we are unhappy or confused. It simply means that we’re content to let life be life. We aren’t putting all our faith in our own perception and models. We aren’t forcing “our way” on the world. In course parlance, we are letting go of our own learning in favor of adopting that of the Holy Spirit.

And “Holy Spirit” in this instance is really just code for “breathe and be still.”

So we do that: we breathe, we humble ourselves, and we rest in the uncertainty of Life.


Generally we conflate inner peace with a good feeling – an ideal personal experience. It’s subjective, meaning it happens to us – it’s our experience of being. We have it.


this this

A lot of us know intellectually that’s an inaccurate representation, but underneath it remains a powerful belief. It’s part of the working algorithm of our self. We have the right map – we study it and preach on it every day – but we aren’t actually out in the territory.

This isn’t a crisis but it’s good to look into it. What do we know is true that we are still treating as relative or false?

A stable spiritual practice in the nondual tradition (of which A Course in Miracles is one example) does mean that a lot of the coming-and-going isn’t as distressful as it once was. We aren’t spiritual ping pong balls anymore, ricocheting this way and that in reaction to life “out there.”

But it is an error to believe that equanimity in the face of what changes is tantamount to inner peace. It’s more in the nature of a sign that we’re on the right trail. It isn’t an end in and of itself.

Inner peace has nothing to do with what appears and with what we perceive. It us unrelated to concepts like “inner” and “outer.” In fact, it is unrelated to that which has an opposite.

Really, even saying “inner peace” is effectively consenting to ongoing conflict.

Saint Paul’s phrasing – “a peace which surpasses understanding” – may be more helpful here because it implies that we aren’t going to get hold of peace in an intellectual way. It isn’t an object or a goal that we can pursue through study. It isn’t an idea that we can grasp or express in language.

What, if anything, do we do?

If we are students of A Course in Miracles, we might give particular attention to the so-called holy instant. The “holy instant” is just another way of saying “the present.” People have been writing and thinking and otherwise inquiring into the present moment – its dynamism, its transformational power – for thousands of years. It is part of our human heritage.

Ignoring – or overlooking or otherwise missing – the present is also part of our human heritage. Missing the present moment doesn’t seem to be a problem for trees or bears or stars. But our big brains have evolved in a way that we tend to see the parts and not the whole, and – critically – to believe that this fragmented mode of perception reflects Truth.

This error of perception enshrined in thought is literally the cause of all our conflict. We accept divisions where there aren’t any and then work very hard to defend – often in physically and psychologically violent ways – those divisions.

A practice grounded in our willingness to perceive the present moment as it is, without intellectual adornment or egoic investment, is a powerful learning tool.

So a really good way of ending the conflict that inheres in our perception of separation as reality is to look into the present moment and see its wholeness and perfection.

In order to look clearly at the present – enacting present moment awareness, say – it can help to put aside our ideal of the intellect as a guide. In other words, don’t get hung up on whether the past is real or whether the future is real. In truth, those metaphysical dilemmas will take care of themselves. We don’t have to solve them.

All we want to do is look into the present moment and see what it is, how it works, what happens in it, what its effects are and so forth.

Take this very instant, now, and think of it as all there is of time. Nothing can reach you here out of the past, and it is here that you are completely absolved, completely free and wholly without condemnation (T-15.I.9:5-6).

That is a simple directive: take this very instant now and think of it as all there is to time. Can we do that? There is an implicit promise of peace in doing so.

This is not an intellectual exercise. It is an exercise of attention: can I look clearly at this moment and really see it?

One way to clarify this exercise is to try and not be in the present moment. If we are regretting the past or obsessing about the future, where and when is the regret and the obsession?

It is here. It is now.

If our attention wanders – into fantasy or memory – was the present moment impaired? We may have lost its beneficence, but we didn’t ruin it. When we are confused about the present moment – or ignoring the present moment – where but in the present does our confusion and ignorance occur?

When we see that we cannot help but be in the present moment, then it becomes easier to see it clearly. It’s this: just this: and this this. Indeed, “[T]he Holy Instant is this instant and every instant” (T-15.IV.1:4). Very simple, right? And yet, it’s so simple that our habitual overlooking constantly skims right past it.

So when we drift, we bring ourselves back. We don’t chastise ourselves. We just come back. We don’t analyze why we drifted. We just come back.

A practice that is grounded in the willingness to perceive the present moment as it is, without intellectual adornment or egoic investment, is a significant learning tool. It is in this attentiveness and awareness – in this holy instant – that we begin to see with practical clarity that a) we are not broken parts of a lovelier whole, and b) that we are not parts at all, and so c) there is nothing to fix or do.

Attention given to the holy instant naturally undoes the conceptual locks and chains that block us from perceiving Truth as Truth. This is what the course is getting at when it reminds us that “[O]ur task is but to continue, as fast as possible, the necessary process of looking straight at all the interference and seeing it exactly as it is” (T-15.IX.2:1).

Keep coming back to the present moment, and that which obscures the present moment, will lose its stranglehold. Healing – our “return” to Wholeness – is thereby facilitated.

In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for minds are joined without the body’s interference, and where there is communication there is peace . . . For communication embraces everything, and in the peace it reestablishes, love comes of itself (T-15.XI.7:1, 6).

Truly, there is only this one moment. In it, the Whole is given to us, including the ability to see beyond our perception of separate parts. Give attention to it. This is the only gift it asks, and the only one we give.


The memory of God comes to the quiet mind (T-23.I.1:1).

There are many ways that we can define this use of “quiet” in A Course in Miracles, but for the moment let’s say that it is a mind that is free of “want.” Can we imagine this?


stillness by the garden in late August . . . a quiet mind remembers wholeness . . .

There are two helpful definitions of “want.” The more common reflects personal desire: I “want” this apple, she “wants” the sun to shine, he “wants” a new job.

The second, older definition refers to an interior scarcity or absence – one “wants” grace, that carriage is in “want” of repair.

What is similar across both definitions is lack. Something is missing so the subject in question (be it a self or a carriage) is not whole. It’s fragmented. It’s separate from that which would complete it. It “wants” completion and it “wants” what it thinks it needs to to be complete.

So the suggestion is that a mind that is free of want is a mind that does not see itself as broken or partial. And that is the mind to which the memory of God comes.

Is that our experience of mind – that it is not broken or partial? That it is not fragmented? This isn’t a question of having a clear intellectual grasp on “wholeness” as a concept. Be honest: when giving attention to mind, is there a seamless whole or a bunch of parts variously interrelated, each spilling into the other?

If we are honest and attentive, most of us will say that the mind is fractured. It darts around like a hummingbird – feeding at this image, now feeding at this idea, now flitting off to some new image or idea. It doesn’t do what we tell it to do. There’s a lot of stuff in it that we would prefer not be there.

The kind of thought we are talking about is physical – it arises in a brain that is processing data supplied by the working senses. The sunset is beautiful, our stomach is growling, our spouse is talking to us, it’s almost time to pick up the kids from band practice, et cetera.

Judgment informs this kind of thought. This kind of thought can’t exist without judgment. Our preference for this kind of weather over another, for giving attention to our spouse instead of to the television, for eating a salad instead of potato chips, for keeping track of time in order to ensure our kids are safe and happy . . .

Can we see – by giving gentle sustained attention – that “want” is the premise of thought’s busy-ness because it is an extension of the body? Wanting food, wanting to be a good parent or spouse, wanting beauty or soothing music, wanting to feel energetic rather than bloated and so forth?

In other words, can we see that the “quiet mind” the course refers to is not the mind of the body and so therefore must be something else?

The Christ in you inhabits not a body. Yet he is in you. And thus it must be that you are not within a body. What is within you cannot be outside. And it is certain that you cannot be apart from what is at the very center of your life. What gives you life cannot be housed in death. No more can you (T-25.in.1:1-7).

If we want to know the whole, then we stop looking only at the parts. We don’t make it a problem that has to be solved. It isn’t a spiritual crisis. It’s just not the whole.

The self that is yoked to a body – which includes thoughts and ideas, memories and dreams, hopes and fears, spiritual practices and communities of faith, friends and families and enemies – is not Christ. The self that is yoked to a body fears nonexistence and cannot bear witness to that which it is not. It knows it’s not the whole, but it doesn’t know what the whole is.

That self is in a literal sense the separation. All that flows through it – and all through which it flows – is a product of separation. Sometimes pleasing, sometimes unpleasing but never whole. Sometimes content, sometimes enraged but never the peace that surpasses understanding.

It is very hard to imagine this Christ – this whole mind “at the very center” which “cannot be housed in death.” How do we respond to that which does not arise as a being we can meet? How do we engage with that which does arise an idea we can discuss? To even ask the question – what is this Christ and how do I make contact with it – is to violate the premise. Ask and you shall not be answered.

Wanting this “Christ” doesn’t help us. You can want Christ or you can want crisis, and the want is still the same. Want involves what is not whole perceiving that which it believes would make it whole. It perceives an opposite – a “something else” that was subtracted from the whole and which can be added back.

But again, be honest. Has anything you ever acquired truly ended your seeking? Has any person or job or book or house or anything ever made you whole?

The truth is – from the perspective of the body and the thoughts which appear to animate it – whatever we get is never enough. Want just keeps on running. It’s like an algorithm that won’t stop churning so long as the hardware is there for it to run on.

It is like this “opposite” – this “something more” – is not actually “more” at all. Nor is it “less.” Upon examination, it becomes a concept whose helpfulness is really “hollowness.” It’s a gust of wind on top of a gust of wind. It isn’t *there and so it can’t be brought *here.

If we can see that, then we can see this too: whatever wholeness is, whether we call it Christ or Source or God or Life, we are looking for it the wrong way. It’s here – we’ve got it – but somehow we’re not seeing the fact of it. There’s nothing to get; nothing to give up. It’s all here right now. And somehow we manage to keep overlooking or not noticing this.

We are like children who throw our ball away and then complain loudly that we don’t have a ball. Somebody brings it back to us and we throw it away again. “I don’t have a ball.” On and on it goes.

We can hold the ball in our hands or we can throw it away: it’s still our ball. We can close our eyes and pretend there’s no ball, or look in another direction and pretend the ball is lost, but there’s still a ball and it’s still our ball.

If we want to know the whole, stop looking only at the parts.

When you see a part, say “that’s not the whole.” Don’t make it into a problem to be solved. It isn’t a spiritual crisis. It’s just not the whole. So we aren’t going to call it that.

We don’t have to fix anything. This can’t be said enough. We only have to see the problem where and as it is and the problem is undone. That’s because it’s not a real problem. Withdraw your support and its gone. Stop throwing the ball away, and the ball stays with you. You’ve got the ball.

So maybe we can rephrase the sentence from A Course in Miracles we started with: “The memory of God comes to the quiet mind” (T-23.I.1:1).

Let’s say instead that the memory of God is a quiet mind because it is free of want. It wants for nothing and wants nothing because it has everything. It’s whole. It’s holy. It isn’t ours. It can’t be reached.

But when everything it is not falls away – is seen as unreal – then it’s what remains. It’s all there is.


“There is no answer; only an experience” (C-In.4:4).

That lovely line – all of seven words – is found in the introduction to the Clarification of Terms in A Course in Miracles. Its simplicity underscores an important tenet of the course: it is a deeply practical curriculum that aims at an experience of inner peace that is not contingent on intellectual understanding. Words only get us so far.

flowers-foundationSaint Paul pointed this out a long time ago in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-7).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This passage was in Helen Schucman’s mind when she was writing A Course in Miracles. We find it early in Chapter Two.

If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly. Your understanding will then inevitably value wrongly, and by endowing all thoughts with equal power will inevitably destroy peace. That is why the Bible speaks of “the peace of God which passeth understanding.” This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you (T-2.II.1:7-11).

And then again in Chapter Thirteen.

The peace of God passeth your understanding only in the past. Yet here it is, and you can understand it now (T-13.VII.8:1-2).

A Course in Miracles is clear: this peace is a gift already given, yet its presence and effects are obscured by fear. This is why we need a course; this is why we need a teacher.

So if we look again at the first sentence from the Clarification of Terms, what do we see?

In context, that sentence is a gentle but specific rebuke to our attempts to reduce the course to a matter of theological or philosophical debate and speculation. The egoic mind likes to take sides. It likes to ask questions that cannot be answered. Told that our separation from God is impossible and illusory it asks: Just how did what is impossible happen? To whom or what did it happen? And so forth.

Those questions – and questions like them that dog our study of the course – cannot really be answered. They have no answer. Asking them – which is to invest int hem – is only a form of delay and resistance. The course urges us to let those questions go and turn instead towards experience. It reminds us that its only concern is “Atonement, or the correction of perception” and that “[t]he means of the Atonement is forgiveness” (C-In.1:2, 3).

A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience towards which the course is directed (C-In.2:5-6).

The point is not that understanding what the course teaches is irrelevant or unhelpful. It is a question of context. For example, forgiveness in course parlance means overlooking error, not confirming its existence by negotiating an agreement to overlook it (e.g. T-2.III.4:1). It is helpful for us to understand this.

The fruits of A Course in Miracles are inner peace – a deep and abiding interior peace that transcends the intellect because it is a gift from God made real in our capacity to give it away.

But if we stay at that level of understanding – if we get very skilled at using words to talk and write about it only – then we are going to miss the actual lived experience of forgiveness. We are going to miss what it is like to actually not perceive error in another, and we are going to miss those moments when others see us absent our errors.

That is a mystifying and glorious and transforming experience! Logic and study can lead us to the door of it, but cannot by themselves create or otherwise substitute for it.

We have to actually forgive, and we have to actually allow ourselves to be forgiven, all as A Course in Miracles envisions.

Perhaps it is like riding a horse. A good teacher will talk to you about horses – how to be safe around them, how to communicate with them, how to be sensitive while on them and so forth. But that lesson is not very helpful if you do not sooner or later mount the horse and ride.

We want to be sensitive to this. The course was written and edited by academics and intellectuals. It is easy to slip into and set up camp in that mode. But that mode exists specifically to facilitate the direct experience of inner peace, and it is to this aspect of practice that we are called to turn. If we neglect it, it’s like ordering a hot fudge sundae and getting only an empty bowl. We need the bowl – but we really really want the ice cream.

It is often easier to study the course, and talk about the course, and have peak experiences of joy and camaraderie with other students of the course, then it is to simply turn our attention to the day-to-day experience of being. Just being in all its up-and-downness, all its this-and-thatness. But it is there – in mortgage payments, breakfast dishes, meetings at work, parenting at home, funerals and baptisms, headlines and sitcoms, sex and romance, vacation and coming home from vacation and so forth – that the course finally and fully becomes us.

Day to day – moment to moment – where is our practice? How is it functioning?

The answer to the latter question – how our practice of A Course in Miracles is functioning – can be answered simply: are we experiencing peace or are we experiencing an absence of peace?

The fruits of A Course in Miracles are inner peace – a deep and abiding interior peace that transcends the intellect because it is a gift from God made real in our capacity to give it away.

It is okay if we are not feeling peace. It’s not a crisis. That is why we have been given such a clear and direct course with such a present and effective teacher. If we are not feeling peace, then we simply give attention to the experience of not knowing peace. We simply look into it, without rushing to solve it or understand it. This is what it means to turn something over to the Holy Spirit: to hold it in awareness in a quiet, gentle and nonjudgmental way.

What happens when we are attentive this way to what is happening in our lives?

To be in the Kingdom is merely to focus your full attention on it . . . Reality is yours because you are reality (T-7.III.4:1, 3).

trail-openingThe peace of God dawns. Slowly perhaps, but ray by ray – in the structure of time to the embodied self that persists in belief – peace comes, and passes through us, and what remains is not a body or a self but peace itself. What remains is the gift, perennially giving itself to itself.

Thus, our intellectual study of the course – rigorous, thorough, and devoted – finds its fullness in application. It finds its fullness when we commit whole-heartedly to make it the cornerstone of this apparent human experience. Over and over we look closely at what happens and arises – the good moments, the bad moment, and the many moments in between – and wait patiently on God’s gift to clarify and reveal itself.

Rest in the Holy Spirit, and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and fear of death. He brings forgiving dreams, in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings there is no murder and there is no death (T-27.VII.14:3-5).

It is not necessary that we understand how this will happen. Its happening is not contingent on understanding. Rather, it is contingent on willingness. The best our thinking can do is demonstrate the need for an alternative to it. Perceiving the need, we begin to give attention that it might be met. We give attention that peace might reach us from beyond the limits of understanding, and it does. It does.


The Atonement is a total commitment (T-2.II.7:1).

We don’t want to mistake those words – especially the phrase “total commitment” – for a kind of rallying cry. This is not Jesus in the role of a coach exhorting us to “give our all” or “leave nothing on the field.” He is not saying – nor implying even – that “ninety nine percent” means you lose, or that until we’re “all in” we’re doomed.


these trees say . . .

It is important to understand that the concept embodied by this sentence – in particular the two-word phrase “total commitment” – is altogether unrelated to personal effort. In A Course in Miracles, our effort is largely beside the point. What we do or don’t do is largely – not wholly but largely – beside the point.1

So what do those words mean? They mean that awakening is inclusive. Nothing is excluded from it. Not one leaf falls but is included. Not one idiot is elected to political office but is included. Not one thought you have – the so-called good ones, the so-called bad ones, and the myriad in-between ones – but is included.

Let’s consider this slowly.

If you can, go look at a tree or a plant right now. What is missing from it? It is a total plant or tree, right? It is not as if you had to go out and make a tree or a plant, or find a partial tree or plant and then complete it somehow.

The tree or plant is given to you totally. It is whole unto itself, and your contribution – beyond witnessing or observing it – is irrelevant.

In you is all of Heaven. Every leaf that falls is given life in you. Each bird that ever sang will sing again in you. And every flower that ever bloomed has saved its perfume and its loveliness for you (T-25.IV.5:1-4).

The course is referring here to a present condition that can be noticed (Heaven is a present condition presently unrecognized). The verb is present tense, not future. It is unconditional. This is reality now, not subsequent to your effort and learning.

And you can begin to experience this Heaven by noticing that the tree or plant is whole and complete, and that you need do nothing to make it so.

This is such a simple observation that we are apt to overlook it. But stay with it. Then begin to generalize it. The window through which you look at the tree – is it whole or partial? That hill in the background against which the tree is framed – is it a total hill or a partial hill? And the sky which frames the hill – is it total or partial?

Don’t play word games! Don’t say it’s a total hill but a partial mountain. That’s being clever and cleverness is a way of being evasive. Don’t say it’s a whole sky but you only see “part” of it. If you know there is “more” sky, is that knowing whole or partial?

We are talking here about an insight that is so simple and clear a child gets it without a problem, but adults overlook or overanalyze or even fight against it. But look and let your looking be its own answer: that tree – and that window – and that hill – and that sky – are given totally to you. They are whole unto themselves.

When we give attention to wholeness, wholeness gives itself back, and in that inclusive mutual giving, oneness is clearly perceived, and perception is translated into knowledge.

This wholeness – this very wholeness – is the Will of God.

Nothing before and nothing after it. No other place; no other state nor time. Nothing beyond nor nearer. Nothing else. In any form (T-25.IV.5:6-10).

Gently – very gently – can you generalize this totality or wholeness to seeing itself? To looking itself? That is, can you find one thing that is not total? That is not wholly given?

. . . [h]ealing is apparent in specific instances, and generalizes to include them all. This is because they are really the same, despite their different forms (T-27.V.8:6-7).

You might say, well, justice is not wholly given because here is an example or injustice. I say, isn’t the injustice wholly given? What is missing from it? If you add something, it is no longer injustice, it is justice. And isn’t the justice totally given?

You might say, well, I am confused about all this. And I say, isn’t your confusion wholly given? You are not confused about whether you are confused. You can’t be. Your confusion is wholly given. Everything is wholly given.

And again – gently, like leading a beloved child to pat a horse for the first time – can you generalize this wholeness unto seeing itself? To being itself? Is it not wholly perfectly given?

The purpose of the Atonement is to restore everything to you; or rather, to restore it to your awareness. You were given everything when you were created, just as everyone was (T-1.IV.3:6-7).

Of course you can perceive the seams – the tree is not the window which is not the hill which is not the sky. But on the other hand, do they not comprise a total image? And is the image apart from the seeing of it? Where is the distance? Where is the difference?

There is only the whole, and it is wholly given.

This sort of thinking is tricky to sustain, largely because it runs counter to how bodies perceive and process perception. And since we largely identify with bodies, it makes sense that we are confused when told that there is another way. But the body is just another image; it, too, is wholly given to what we are in Truth.

Thus is the body made a theory of yourself, with no provision made for evidence beyond itself, and no escape within its sight. Its course is sure, when seen through its own eyes . . . you cannot conceive of you apart from it (T-24.VII.10:1-2, 4).

In a way, what is suggested here is a kind of evidence-gathering that points beyond the partiality and limitations of the body. It is a way of thinking about perception – and giving attention to perception – that is at odds with what is familiar to the embodied self. We are seeing in what we long considered fragments, the very essence of wholeness.

So this is a hint as to what the course is talking about when it says “Atonement is a total commitment.”

Nothing is excluded. Everything is included. How could it not be so? Into what is “everything” included? To what can “everything” be added? What can be taken away from totality or wholeness? Where would you put it?

There is only wholeness, and it is wholly given.


or these . . .

You might say I am just being clever here. And we do have to be cautious and go slowly. Anybody can pose an apparently unanswerable question. Articulating a paradox doesn’t make us smart or wise.

But the words I am using do point to something, and it is the same “thing” that the course is pointing at, both across the text and lessons, and in the particular sentence we are studying.

We don’t have to “make” a total commitment, like football players bent on winning the Super Bowl, because in truth there is nothing to commit to and nobody to do the committing. But we can be willing to perceive the totality, or wholeness, or oneness if you like, of what is given right now.

Logic leads us to willingness. This is an essential premise of A Course in Miracles, because Helen Schucman was a fiercely logical writer. Logic gets us to where we pause and give attention. We may not know what we are looking for, but we know that looking matters. We know giving attention matters, so we give it.

And wholeness gives itself back, and in that inclusive mutual giving, oneness is clearly perceived, and perception is translated into knowledge. We “awaken” from the dream that there is such a thing as “sleep” or a self that could be other than awake and home in wholeness.

And it is so simple and clear! It is given.

This course makes no attempt to teach what cannot easily be learned. Its scope does not exceed your own, except to say that what is yours will come to you when you are ready (T-24.VII.8:1-2).

So effort isn’t the point. Simply give attention, which is happening already anyway, and what is already true will be remembered wholly in your awareness.

1. We are distinguishing – as the balance of the post makes clear – between willingness and effort. Willingness is a state of mind that allows what is given to be unconditionally accepted. Effort is a misguided attempt to force reality to conform to our personal expectations for it. It obscures the given by trying to give in its place.