I was reflecting recently on being a perfect student of A Course in Miracles. In Spring, my life tends to get hectic. I teach and so a lot of work comes due at the end of the semester. We homeschool our children and so we have to submit our education plans to the school district, as well as our evaluations of the previous school year. There are gardens to plant, lawns to clear, and this year we are having some work done on our house. I am planning a trip to the Maine coast with my father.
In other words, life feels crazy. And my course practice slips a bit. Yeah, I hate saying that but I’m going to own it. I have periods of time – winter is generally quite fruitful – where I am up early every morning and spend hours studying and praying. I’m like a monk, just this side of Heaven. Then there are times like the present one where it’s all I can do to remember, “Oh yeah. This is all a dream. Thanks Jesus.”
I went for a long walk yesterday to try and clear my head a bit. It was beautiful. A light rain was falling. I saw an owl in the woods, a great heron by the pond. The efts – what we tend to call salamanders – are back, crawling across the trails. I am always refreshed by long walks in the woods (channeling, I think, this theme that nature can be redemptive, most recently captured in the excellent film Old Joy – check it out if you have the chance – great scenery). I found myself asking what the perfect course student might look like. Of course I was trying to shoehorn myself into the description.
But eventually I gave up and just walked. I practiced readiness. Being attentive is almost always good to me. What does the course say somewhere, “you are too tolerant of mind wandering?” Something like that.
A perfect ACIM student would know the quote precisely!
Where does that leave me?
And does it matter?
The summer after Chrisoula and I got married, we went camping. One night we walked down to the beach – the moon was full – and I went swimming. It was incredible. Do you swim at night? It is perhaps the most amazing feeling. The water was black and cool and I slipped through it like a fox in the ferns. The moon was everywhere – a brilliant circle in the sky, the air full of streaming light, the sharp glitter of ripples everywhere. I remember laying on my back and just laughing out loud. I was so happy, so connected.
And later that night I wrote a poem – I won’t trouble you with all of it – but towards the end I discounted the effort to know God. I said who gives a hoot about understanding life, or sorting through meaninglessness, or choosing one spiritual path over another? The poem ended with this image: me on my back blowing water at the stars, “one of the lesser beasts at worship.”
I felt that yesterday, too. Just walking in the forest, another creature making peace. What grace there is when we step out of our heads, just let the chatter rumble on but don’t listen, don’t pay attention. All the nonsense – I forgot yesterday’s long session with the lesson, I haven’t been practicing the “rules for decision” every morning, I just fall out of bed and stumble to the coffee maker. It all falls away. It doesn’t matter.
That state of grace I find in the forest is always there. It is God admiring creation, one big circle, in which I am merely another dust mote floating through the pillared light, another drop of rain settling on the lush Spring grass beside the pond. I sat and watched the rain fall, the ripples of each drop circling outward. Where did they end? Did they end? Who cares? How silly to think it can be understood! How arrogant! The only possible response is gales of laughter.
That is always where attention leads me. I made it home – as always – laughing.