Things don’t bother me the way they used to. I can say that honestly, and I can say, too, that this relative equanimity is an effect of my study of A Course in Miracles, which includes the serious and sustained effort I have made to bring it into application.
Part of the reason that things do not bother me so much is that I am slowly coming into the realization that they aren’t what matters – that what is going on externally, or appears to be going on externally, is sort of like ripples across the lake’s surface. It’s evidence of what is, but it isn’t the thing itself. It really doesn’t matter what the external circumstances are up to, and external circumstances include my response – my feelings and ideas about what is happening. All of that is just so many dead leaves being pushed around by the wind.
It is important to me that you understand I am not denying the existence of what is external. I am simply relating to it differently, based on my clarifying understanding of what I am – and what you are – in truth. That’s all. I am very happy with chickadees and moonlight and my wife and kids and books of poetry and fresh bread and all of that. None of that is a problem. But none of it is a solution either.
That is a really helpful insight when we get to it: that nothing external is the problem and that nothing external is the solution. Then we can begin to just let the world be. And all letting it be means is that we don’t have to give it the same kind of attention. The answer isn’t out there; the question isn’t even really out there.
[T]he problem of separation, which is really the only problem, has already been solved. Yet the solution is not recognized, because the problem is not recognized (W-pI.79.1:4-5).
So long as we insist that we have problems – mortgages that can’t be paid, dogs that die, cakes that fall, whatever – then we will not see the one problem we have, which is separation, which is what gives rise to all these seeming problems. They come into existence because we take seriously the idea that we are these bodies with minds inside them, all part of an evolving narrative.
There is nothing wrong with any of that. It’s not something we have to do “while we’re here” or whatever. I am very busy in the world: I teach, I write, I publish, I play poker with my kids, I go for walks with the dog, I sleep with my wife, I eat local and grow as much of my own food as possible, I bake bread, I protest against the death penalty, I am an elected public official in my town, I vote.
It’s just that more and more, I don’t confuse those things with reality: they are ripples on the lake’s surface. They are not the wind.
We come to that realization by giving attention to the separation. When you really get close to it, then you see that it never happened because, try as you might, you can never make contact with the separated self. When we stop giving attention to – or investing in – separation and the self upon which it rests, then it is gone. It’s gone in the sense that when you tell the truth, the lie is gone. I can tell you I have five dollars in my pocket but when I empty them to reveal only one, the lie ends.
The only way to dispel illusions is to withdraw all investment from them, and they will have no life for you because you will have put them out of your mind. While you include them in it, you are giving life to them (T-7.VII.4:4-5).
External phenomena and events are illusions in the sense that we project meaning onto them – the meaning is the illusion. The chickadee or the spouse or the job or the mountain is not. They are just there, like everything else, coming and going. But what is always there is attention, or our capacity for attention, and when we get into that in an applied way, a lot resolves itself very quickly. A lot is revealed.
That is really what we are bringing into application: the gift of attention. We are giving attention to all that arises, which eventually leads us to the one who is giving attention who, it turns out, cannot be found. That no-self is the real peace – the real equanimity. That is the moment we encounter what Meister Eckhart called the unmanifest isness that is God, and are at home in it.
I am not saying I get this all the time or that I get it perfectly. I am just figuring things out in my slow, stubborn way and being blessed despite what my general stupidity and arrogance. What can you do but what you can do?
I am simply saying that things even out and settle. And they make sense: what A Course in Miracles teaches (for all its density and complexity and for all the confused blowhards pontificating about it 🙂 ) is true and helpful. It’s not the only way, but it’s a pretty effective way, to those who are so inclined.
Anyway, I don’t worry about all that so much anymore. I’ve always been a wanderer and a stumbler. What I am learning is that wandering is not really lost and stumbling isn’t really falling. They aren’t even really wandering and stumbling. It’s like you can give attention to your breath, or forget all about your breath, but you’re still breathing.
So that is what is happening. That is what I am learning. I just come back to the responsiveness of attention: the way that it gently leads me to the separation that never was. “Look, look,” it says. “You aren’t what you think you are.” You light one candle and when it doesn’t kill you, you think: maybe I can light two. Or three. Maybe I can find somebody with a lantern. And little by little the self-imposed darkness ends.