In a sense, we are making a concerted effort – and effort is the right word – to separate our internal condition from what is happening externally. This is easier said than done, but it is very important. We have to perceive them as different orders of reality.
When I was half-assing around with Zen Buddhism in the late ’80’s, one of the teachers with whom I did a workshop, said that to be enlightened was to be happy and content regardless of what was happening in our lives. You get robbed and lose everything and you remain gently and quietly peaceful. You win the lottery and remain gently and quietly peaceful. Cool ideal, I thought, but a little naive.
Of course, she was right. But it took me a couple of decades to even entertain that possibility.
That experience of inner peace – unshakable, unchanging – is learned! We work towards it. As students of A Course in Miracles we need always remind ourselves that the true cause of inner peace is not external. Rather, it is a decision that we make internally. And “internally” in this context does not mean inside our brains or our bodies.
A natural consequence of deciding to be separate from God – from what is, from our natural condition of perfectly clear and flowing love – is denial and projection. That split is terrifying and we cannot bear the fear so we deny it. We push it down. And we need to blame someone for the grief we have come to: hence the world. Hence the body. Hence other bodies.
The metaphysics of this can be mind-boggling but it’s not critical to reason them out. In fact, getting obsessed with course metaphysics is often just a subtle form of resistance.
At the simplest level – and it is a very effective level, too – we are simply asking: am I at peace? And if the answer is no, then we need to make another choice. We need to “see peace instead of this (W-pI.34). And we need to realize that it is our decision to do so.
This decision is independent of the external conditions in which we seem to find ourselves: in a bad job, in a bad relationship, too many demands from here and there, whatever. Good or bad, doesn’t matter. What is external is a reflection and nothing more. It yields no effect but what we give it.
Thus, we make a great deal of progress when we begin to accept responsibility for our own inner condition. What the course calls the ego – the false self that decides against peace and for separation – demands that we remain in blame mode, always seeing the cause of our inner state as “out there.” Merely raising the logic of its methods to light can be immensely healing.