We wake up in part by realizing that we never slept. We have always been perfect creations in and of the Mind of God. Yet that realization – which one might say ends time – follows a process in time in which we struggle and practice and learn. We aspire to Heaven before learning that we never left. It is possible in the process of awakening – which can seem to take lifetimes – to catch glimpses of our final destination. One helpful way to do this is to practice seeing only what is loving and only what is lovable.
While a thorough grasp of the metaphysics that underlie the A Course in Miracles is important, one can rely too much on intellectual understanding. “Seeing” means two things to a Course student: the physical seeing inherent in our bodies and the spiritual vision granted by the Holy Spirit. When we practice seeing only what is loving and lovable, which “seeing” should we use?
Who cares? Spend a few minutes with your physical sight and try to see only what loves you and only what merits your love. It’s a good practice. Go into the quiet of nature and study the leaves, the humus, the butterflies, the clouds, the stream. Remember that it is this world in which you are going to wake up, and before you wake up you are going to experience this world in crystalline light. Its beauty is going to leave you breathless. Read Emily Dickinson. She left a road map for those who want to learn how to use their physical sight to behold the Reality of Heaven.
And by no means limit yourself to the stillness of the field or the forest. Practice this kind of seeing in the mall. Practice it on a busy city street. I did it last week in at midnight in an airport, waiting for my parents’ flight to arrive. The travelers, the janitors, the police, the guard dog, the advertisements, the guy selling coffee, reflections in the window, air traffic lights glittering in the rainy sky. We are never not with God. And if we want to see God, then God will be present in everything we see. It is that simple.
So we can use our physical sight to see that which is lovable and that which is loving. But it is not the only way. We can practice with our physical eyes closed. Why not? Even a child knows that closing their eyes does not end images. It does not end thought.
Find a quiet place – a rocker in the corner of the bedroom, a cup of tea before anybody else wakes up – and ask Jesus to help you see the loving and the lovable. What happens? What images show up? What ideas? Spiritual vision is awkward sometimes because ideas seem less concrete and more formless than bodies in the world. But so what? Who shows up in your thoughts? What situations show up? What urges? What feelings? Try not to judge. Notice the impulse to shape what you “see,” to decide that this is good but that is bad. Notice the impulse, but don’t give in to that. Tell yourself: I am in the Mind of God and so what is in my mind is in God’s Mind. Therefore, it must be loving and it must be lovable. Can you sense the truth of that? It is itself liberating.
These exercises can be very challenging. In the woods, you might come upon a mess of bloody feathers bearing witness to the painful death of a bird. In the city, you might see a homeless person begging for coins. In the airport I saw people crying in anguish – I don’t know why. Coming to a funeral perhaps? You could feel their pain.
We want to turn away from these images and feelings. It’s understandable. But if we are going to wake up, we have to face them. We have to see them. And so we must deepen our trust. These are the moments where we need to say, “I don’t understand how this qualifies as loving or lovable but I’m open to finding out. If you’re willing to teach me, Jesus, then I’m willing to learn.” He is always ready to instruct us. We have to ask and we have to listen.
There are two benefits to this practice. The first is that it is a chance to deepen in faith, as outlined above. We are likely to be confused by what we see. We are likely to judge even without realizing we are judging. And – hopefully – we also realize that we don’t understand very much about love. And so we have to be in contact with a model (Jesus) and a guide (the Holy Spirit) to help us figure it out. It’s good to know we need help! And good to ask for it, too.
The second benefit is that as our capacity to perceive the loving and the lovable increases, we will begin to experience gratefulness. Seeing these little intimations of Heaven naturally expands our gratitude. It happens on its own. We see that we are not being misled. We accept that we really are going to wake up one day – maybe right now, maybe tomorrow. We learn that the world of perception really is just a dream – and a lovely one at that. So gratefulness comes and it stays with us. We are changed by it.
Few emotions are as helpful in understanding and bringing A Course in Miracles to application as gratitude. It is not just thankfulness for what we’ve got or what someone gives us. That’s okay but real gratitude is more than that. It is what opens our heart and makes us want to share what we’re learning – and not really in an evangelical way (although that is clearly part of the call for some people). Rather, we are learning love and it is so exciting and beautiful and vivid that we want to give it away to everyone we meet – friends, strangers, family members, pets. We want this Love to lighten the way for others as it has for us. And so we help without being asked, and we interact without analysis, and we serve and we hug and we listen and we laugh. Gratitude sparks the love that enables us to be fully and energetically present. It begets a deep kindness that is itself reminiscent of Heaven.
Ultimately, we learn that everything we perceive – be it with the physical eyes or our spiritual sight – is loving and lovable. What else could there possibly be?