There is Wisdom in Non-Reaction

For many years, I labored under the belief that life obligated one to be aggressive in action, one step ahead of events, shaping circumstance. If an idea popped into my brain, I acted on it immediately, heedless of consequences. Whatever happened – whether I judged it good or bad or someplace in between – demanded action from me. I didn’t know – and would have scoffed – at the truth of knowing that there is wisdom in not reacting.

There is very little peace in constantly responding to what happens in life. It is a control issue. We monitor everything that happens, assign a value to it, and then react. This is true whether what happens is perceived as positive – like, say, dinner and sunset with someone we love – or negative, like losing one’s job.

Much of this reacting takes place outside our conscious awareness. But plenty of it happens right where we can see it. I notice it in staff meetings at the school where I teach. Somebody says something with which I disagree, or says it in a way that feels too watery or too vinegary to me, or I’m just feeling a little insecure generally, and so I pipe up. And I keep piping. It’s not that I am adding to the discussion in a helpful way – lots of times, I could care less. But I am asserting my self.

The truth is that whenever I assert my opinion or ideas – conflating them with what or who I am – then I am invested. I care about outcomes and I’ve decided what constitutes a right outcome. I am elbowing God out in favor of my own judgment and my own energy. And this never works! It never ever works! We cannot have it both ways. We cannot surrender to God’s will partially. We cannot trust God to handle some problems but reserve others for our own effort. So long as we cling to our own power, however subtly, we deny Heaven. That is the real loss.

The lilac bushes are slowly coming into bloom around our house. They are brief but lovely blossoms. Every year when I spend time with them, I marvel at how little effort they put forward. My wife and kids are tired of me saying it, but the lilac bush is not struggling to be the best lilac bush in town or even a better lilac bush than it was last year. It just blooms. At every moment of its blooming, it is utterly perfect. This is not just an academic point and it is not spiritually trite. The lilac is fueled by life as I am, as you are. Its vitality and our vitality come from the same source. It is possible for us to live that way – that simply, that quietly, that naturally.

Can we release our resistance? Can we stop reacting?

Only the Holy Spirit knows what you need. For he will give you all things that do not block the way to light. And what else could you need? (T-13.VII.12:1-3)

It is amazing sometimes to realize how little is asked of me. I grew up believing that every last detail of life was my responsibility and it turns out not to be true. The stars shine just fine without my permission. The lilac bushes are there each year without my input. When we give our lives over to the care of the Holy Spirit, trusting Jesus that this is the way to be liberated unto “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” then we make contact with a divine flow. We remember – we discover anew – that life happens without effort on our part. It takes care and it provides. And we are not apart from it.

Therefore, ask not of yourself what you need, for you do not know, and your advice to yourself will hurt you. For what you think you need will merely serve to tighten up your world against the light, and render you unwilling to question the value that this world can really hold for you (T-13.VII.11:5-6).

Reaction to what happens externally is a sign that we are still trying to wrestle power away from God. But this is impossible! Real power – which naturally leads to peace and joy – comes only when we accept that no contribution from us is needed, beyond our willingness to say

Be it unto me according to thy word.

In this way, A Course in Miracles teaches me to relax. It teaches me to breathe. It teaches me to rely on God’s word rather than my own, and to trust that that reliance is well-placed. I do not have to solve the world’s problems and I do not even have to solve my own. Rather, I need to continually remind myself that I want salvation, that I want awakening, and then allow the Holy Spirit to guide me home. That goal is the answer to all my problems. Heeding it is the wisdom that ends all reaction.

Then follow him in joy, with faith that He will lead you safely through all dangers to your peace of mind this world may set before you. Kneel not before the altars to sacrifice, and seek not what you will surely lose. Content yourself with what you will as surely keep, and be not restless, for you undertake a quiet journey to the peace of God, where he would have you be in quietness (T-13.VII.15:1).

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