One thing that A Course in Miracles does is encourage observation. We are really just asked to calmly look at what is going on – when our guilt arises, when fear spreads it wings, when the fires of hate and anger start to simmer and then burn. We aren’t refusing the world or improving it. We’re simply watching it, casually almost. The ego is not undone through heroics but through patience and gentleness.
The miracle does nothing. All it does is to undo. And thus it cancels out the interference to what has been done (T-28.I.1:1-3).
Vigilance is called for, but not effort. The two are not synonymous.
[T]o the dedication to the truth as God established it no sacrifice is asked, no strain called forth, and all the power of Heaven and the might of truth itself is given to provide the means, and guarantee the goal’s accomplishment (T-24.VI.12:5).
This does not make much sense at the level of time and the body. Here in the world, getting things done takes doing. We are used to effort. We are accustomed to employing judgment to choose between courses of actions and modes of accomplishment. But waking up is something else entirely. We aren’t trying to master the world or make it better. We are trying to leave it. We are trying to remember that at both its best and worst extremes, the world is an illusion.
We need to remember that all a miracle does is “merely looks on devastation and reminds the mind that what it sees is false” (W-pII.13.1:3).
The miracle isn’t afraid of devastation – nuclear war, stubbed toes, adultery, child abuse, bullying in schools, skyrocketing healthcare costs, undercooked steak, cancer, headaches, pens without ink, gluten intolerance. The miracle is willing – is eager, even – to gaze upon all of it and say gently to our minds, “this isn’t real.” And we don’t want that! And so we have to look at that, too. We have to look at the fact that we are resistant and scared. On one level we are practicing the course and being good students and then on another we’re just carrying on with the same old fragmentation and madness. David Bohm said that one of the critical aspects of dialogue was that it adopted a sort of observational stance, one that didn’t rest on agendas and judgment and so forth. Only then could meaning – truth – find its way to the surface.
As soon as we try to accomplish a useful purpose or goal, we will have an assumption behind it as to what is useful, and that assumption is going to limit us (On Dialogue, 20).
The goal is not get rid of those assumptions but not to be beholden to them.
[W]hat is called for is to suspend those assumptions, so that you neither carry them out nor suppress them. You don’t believe them, nor do you disbelieve them; you don’t judge them as good or bad (On Dialogue, 24-25).
We need to understand that for all our good intentions, we are also actively working against ourselves. We are always deciding what would be good and what would be bad and then directing ourselves accordingly. Maybe we nod in the direction of Jesus, but basically we’re holding onto the reins with both hands. It is – literally and figuratively – a death grip. And it’s not until we see how much it hurts to hold the reins that we can start – bit by painful bit – to hand them over to Jesus.
All the miracle needs is for us to breathe a little and give it some space. It runs counter to everything we think we know. And so making space for it necessarily involves some vulnerability.
Nobody – not Jesus, not David Bohm – is suggesting that this work is easy. We wake up slowly. We circle back to ground we think we covered and see that we didn’t get every last thing. The real question is how relaxed are we – that’s a sort of bellwether that clues us into how much space we are giving miracles or, to put it another way, how much trust we are placing in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We take it by degrees. It gets better slowly and sometimes it seems like it’s not getting better at all. Indeed, sometimes we are making the most progress when we are feeling the most angst. That’s just how it goes when you’re crazy in a crazy-making world.
The important thing is not to quit. If we don’t give up, no matter how apparently difficult it gets, we are going to start catching some glimpses of light. We are going to start to see that the way out is clear and that we are free to follow it. In a sense, that is when things get really interesting.