My life has been somewhat askew lately. Summer teaching is brief – and rewarding – but also intense; the rituals that carry me from one end of the day to another are interrupted. This interruption is itself a spiritual practice. Routine can impair our awareness of what A Course in Miracles calls the Holy Instant, the Now. So a period of unsettling can be helpful. It can be instructive.
It can remind us – if we are open and willing to spiritual reminders – that the cause of joy and peace is never external, but always internal.
Earlier today, the dog and I went for a walk – east towards the brook. At this point in summer, at four a.m., the sky is already beginning to brighten, streaks of soft orange billowing over the tree line, the first traces of bird song wending through the still-cool air, stars growing dim overhead.
When I turn North into the forest, just below the old homestead, a sort of stillness enters. My thoughts quieten and slow. My awareness of what is naturally expands. Love – which is not romantic, not sexual, not wedded to body or form – flows or extends through me. There is no effort in this.
It is tempting to say that this deepening awareness and inner peace is caused by the quiet and stillness inherent in the forest itself. That is why Thoreau could say that “Heaven is under our feet, as well as over our heads.”
That which is external is never cause but it is always effect. To believe and advocate otherwise, however well-intentioned, is to devalue the creative power of mind at the very moment when we could most learn how powerful it truly is.
But that is to misunderstand what A Course in Miracles teaches us about cause and effect. That which is external is never the cause of either our grief or our joy; cause is always internal and it is always our decision to either think with God or against God. Only the idea that separation is real can cause sorrow; only our acceptance that separation never happened can cause joy.
The causeless cannot be . . . Remember always that mind is one, and cause is one. You will learn communication with this oneness only when you learn to deny the causeless, and accept the Cause of God as yours (T-14.III.8:3, 5-6).
The forest is not the cause of my inner peace because it is external and subject to interpretation. There are plenty of people for whom those morning walks into the New England wild would be either frightening or boring or annoying. It is the same forest, but a very different interpretation. As Tara Singh pointed out over and over, our interpretation is all we have to deal with.
It is critical to see this. If I can naturally and surely extend God’s love in the New England forest, then I can do it in the heart of New York City, too. If I can do it while listening to birds sing, then I can do it in a busy meeting where people are yelling at one another.
That which is external is never cause but always effect. To believe and advocate otherwise, however well-intentioned, is simply to disempower ourselves in a moment of real potential for learning.
In the forest, I choose to think with God. I decide that I will not be separate from God. And I am happy and joyful accordingly.
So I give attention then to the inner peace and happiness that naturally flows in those moments, and carry them with me as I remember. Peace is natural, as is joy – they are what is when our multi-faceted resistance to God’s love at last subsides and falls away.