For a long time when I “looked within” I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on an area in the vicinity of my physical heart. Maybe sometimes the brain. It was as if there was a little pinprick of light buried deep in one of those organs and that light, that spark was God. The harder I looked within, the tighter I scrunched my eyes! I’m not saying it was entirely fruitless – well-intentioned prayer never is – but for me there are better ways. Over the past year or so I have brought to bear a new way of looking within and it has nothing to do with my eyes or my heart or my brain. It is called service.
If we want to wake up, we have to begin where we are and with what’s available. Salvation is like being stranded on a desert island. You wish you had a boat or a radio but you don’t. So you start by learning how to harvest coconut milk. You build a hut against the weather. You wait and you pray and you wait some more. Isn’t this beach just wonderful?!
More and more I learn that “understanding” A Course in Miracles, while nominally helpful, is hardly the big deal it’s made out to be in some circles. Understand it or don’t understand it, you are still loved by God. You are still being guided back to Heaven. What counts is our ability to bring the principles of the Course into application – and that is very very difficult. For me it is. If we are being rigorously honest with ourselves – a prerequisite for awakening – then we have to see how hard it is for us to be kind, to be gentle, and to be entirely without motives. The human brain, which modulates our life in this world, is wired for survival. It is very good at this. We are always thinking about how to get more for ourselves and how to protect what we already have. We are always dividing the world into us and the other. The deeper you go, the clearer this becomes.
A Course in Miracles will undo all that. It will undo it in a profound way. Personality will literally end – the lovelessness of I’m special and you’re not. I’m this and you’re that. Loving one’s children more than the neighbor’s children and caring more for those children than those half a globe away . . . . that kind of special love would disappear. Trusting God completely means that the impulse to survive is over. We don’t have to take thought for tomorrow. There’s nothing outside this moment. But how many of us are there?
It’s not enough to know that’s the goal. It’s not enough to be really eloquent is writing or preaching it. Words are just shadows of the direct experience of Truth. As my practice deepens, I find myself asking Jesus: how do I get past myself? How do I let this “me” go?
His answer is almost always some variation of “serve somebody.”
I know it’s a truthful and helpful answer because of how quickly and utterly I resist it. “Uh, I’m not actually a servant. I’m more of a prince. A marquis maybe. Service is so . . . menial. I want the grandeur of Heaven and I’d like it in worldly terms.”
We are always asking Jesus if he has any other plans! Isn’t it true?
But knowing the futility of resistance, and being committed in my own stumbling way to waking up now, I try to heed. I try to serve. And I learn that service begins in willingness. It begins in asking Jesus for specific guidance: who needs help, what kind and when? Remember the beginning of one of the earliest prayers in the text?
I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me (T-2.V.18.8:2-3).
So it is our function to serve. Set aside the metaphysics, the chatter about happy dreams and nightmares, the personality of this teacher and that one. Right now you believe you are here in this world and it is a world in which many of your brothers and sisters are sad and hurt and lonely and confused. To serve them is to love them. It is to bring the love of Christ, which is your inheritance, to them. Your awakening is intimately related to their awakening. You hasten both when you let Jesus use you to help others.
It is always amusing to see how much progress “we” make when we forget about making progress and focus on somebody else. Maybe it’s listening to a student who needs somebody to empathize with their difficult home life. Maybe it’s a child who really really needs an adult to make a puzzle with her and do it without talking or rushing. Maybe it’s the neighbor who needs a hand mowing the lawn because she’s got a sick kid. Maybe it’s your office mate who needs somebody to laugh at his jokes. Maybe it’s the old cat who needs extra patting. Maybe it’s the waitress who needs somebody to say, “you’re doing a great job and we’re in no rush.” Maybe somebody needs you to pray for them.
One thing I’ve learned, there is no shortage of opportunities to help others once I let Jesus call the shots. I just say, “Jesus, you’re better at this servant thing than I am. What do you want me to do here?” And bam! We’re ready to go.
And do you know what happens when we serve? We turn within. We see inside.
Looking within is unrelated to physical sight. It is also unrelated to space and matter. Instead, it is a way of directly experiencing Love. We say “looking within” and we are really talking about experiencing our Christ nature. Service undoes the focus we place on our selves – as bodies, as personalities, as special people. We tend to our brothers and sisters and as they are healed we are healed because we are actively loving.
Release from guilt as you would be released. There is no other way to look within and see the light of love, shining as steadily and as surely as God Himself has always loved His Son. And as His Son loves Him (T-13.X.10:1-3).
Can we come to that service that is an extension of God’s love? It is devoid of personality and has no taint of self-righteousness to it. It flows effortlessly because it is not really from us. Rather, it flows through us as trusting and obedient followers of Jesus. It is kindness offered for no other reason than that divine kindness is continually offered to us. We retain it – we enlarge its healing capacity – by giving it to others.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary, when she asked to bear God’s son. You don’t have to believe literally Luke’s gospel to see the willingness, the faith and the trust that is implicit in her words. Let it be our statement, too, as students of A Course in Miracles, as followers of Jesus. The need for servants is great and the call to serve goes out all the time. Would you answer? How will you answer? Salvation resides in our Yes.