A Course in Miracles Lesson 166

I am entrusted with the gifts of God.

Some clarity comes as we get clear about the futility of our designs and methods. We begin to see that we can’t fix anything and – deeper yet – don’t even really understand what “fixed” might mean. We can’t do a thing and even if we could do a thing, we wouldn’t know what thing to do.

In other traditions, we call this a “bottom.” We realize our powerlessness and the unmanageability that goes with insisting we can be in control.

So what do we do?

A Course in Miracles suggests this is not such a bad place to be. Note that it doesn’t say it’s a fun, happy or painless place to be – quite the opposite in fact (M-4.A.5:2-3). But it does suggest that once we reach this particular branch of the road, something useful and helpful is at last possible.

Your ancient fear has come upon you now, and justice has caught up with you at last. Christ’s hand has touched your shoulder, and you feel that you are not alone. You even think the miserable self you thought was you may not be your Identity. Perhaps God’s Word is truer than you own. Perhaps his gifts to you are real (W-pI.166.9:1-5).

When we come to that place where we do not wish to go back, accept – barely, perhaps, but undeniably – the presence of mighty companions, and have no clue how to proceed, then we are at last ready to perceive God’s gifts that are already given to us. We have slowed down enough, become willing enough – and spiritually unencumbered enough – to sense what is, and sense that it has always been here, independent of time and independent of our wish that it be somewhere or something else.

God’s Will does not oppose. It merely is. It is not God you have imprisoned in your plan to lose your Self (W-pI.166.10:1-3).

When we stop projecting an opposite or wanting something different or other, then God’s will emerges and clarifies. It becomes real to us. This is how the metaphorical veil lifts – we stop trying so hard to hold it in place. And most of us do not let go voluntarily. Rather, we simply exhaust ourselves – for years, lifetimes perhaps – in our efforts to keep God away. At last we give up.

And then what is always there – the gift that was given – is finally perceived.

[God] does not know about a plan so alien to His Will. There was a need He did not understand, to which He gave an Answer. That is all. And you who have this Answer given you have need no more of anything but this (W-pI.166.10:4-7).

Lately I have been praying on my knees. Who knows why? The pain and anguish of life has been intense and the temptation to just dump it all over everyone is strong. Meditation and reason aren’t helping. So I go back to where it all began – the simplest prayer I know. In a position of humbleness – signifying willingness – I hang my head and say simply “help me, Jesus. Help me. Please.”

And then I run through all my problems and resistances. I’m embarrassed to be praying in such a childlike way, I don’t think Jesus is “out there,” I’m ashamed that I’ve been an ACIM student for this long with no obvious improvement and so on and so forth. I apologize for rambling and then I ramble some more.

And I end the prayer by asking that I be reminded of what is already given. Just that. Despite my desires and ambitions, despite my fear and confusion, I know in the end that this is all I need. Whatever wanting stands in its way, the clarity of the need cannot be compromised now. I won’t ask for anything else.

Please: show me what is already given. Please.

I woke late this morning and didn’t walk the dog until close to 9:30 – after making pancakes, grading papers and that sort of thing. The sun was bright and I thought: where is my darkness? Where is my solitude? Oh my God what is happening?

“Keep it simple,” Jesus whispered. “Just breathe and keep it simple.”

And so the dog and I walked. And about a mile or so into the forest we came to a clearing. The pine trees were a deep luminescent green, lit by the sun. A breeze kept sifting snow from their limbs and in the sunlight each thin flake sparkled like a rainbow. So much loveliness all at once – it was like falling face-first into an Emily Dickinson poem. The chickadees were singing and in the distance I could hear crows. When I knelt to say thank you, I saw mouse tracks everywhere, and the tiny caverns where they duck back towards the earth. It was impossible not to laugh at how foolish I’d been. It was impossible to imagine anything other than this simple loveliness, this perfect unadulterated happiness.

And so what? It is not me but what we are together that renders what is broken and wretched beautiful and whole.

One walks with you Who gently answers all your fears with this one merciful reply, “it is not so.” He points to all the gifts you have each time the thought of poverty oppresses you, and speaks of His Companionship when you perceive yourself as lonely and afraid (W-pI.166.11:3-4).

And so it is done and all that remains is the happy laughter and the joyful extension of what was always ours together. Breathe. Keep it simple. Together we are home.

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18 Comments

  1. I’ve had some of my worse moments with much sorrow, crying and praying and then. . . clarity. Your situation brought to mind one of these episodes, where at the end of it, I simply surrendered. I had cried and prayed my heart out and I was done. Then, I went to the grocery store for something. When I entered, you would have thought that the crayon salesman had been there in a big way. Nothing in the store had changed, yet everything had. It was expansive, colorful, awe-inspiring. My eyes were seeing it in a whole new light. I walked around in a peaceful daze the rest of that evening in spite of the fact that earlier, I knew my world was coming apart. And it had. Haha

    Oh Sean, I was crying like a baby half way through your post. I could feel your pain and then much of my own sorrow came forth. I have felt numb with betrayal over the last few years. I even find it hard to cry. But today, after this cry, as I project outward toward my betrayer, I realize that I have betrayed myself. But then, the Course says that we cannot betray God, ourselves or others. My poor unloved and frightened ego runs rampant these days. It is constantly telling me stories of doom and gloom. It’s so simple, yet not easy, to look past it and see the world as God sees it. I feel that this is what happened to you today. You were able to see past the ego’s interpretation and instead, see with God’s eyes. I’ve also asked Jesus to help you, your family, myself and the world. Your posts are really helping me to be diligent with the Course materials. Many blessings and thanks! Namaste. : )

    1. The crayon salesman . . . what a great way to put it! That is exactly how it seems. Nothing changes but everything is brighter, as if the crayon salesman had visited. I like that!

      You know, I think these spaces that feel like despair are great opportunities. I read somewhere that Carl Jung was bored when his patients said that things were going well but when they said something awful had happened he would pull his chair closer and say, “great news!” I can appreciate that. And even trust it a little, too. There was a time when I would have resisted praying on my knees – or on a zafu – or whatever. We are always getting in our own way! Trying to decide what is right or best or most helpful. . .

      It is when we relax – defeated – that the relief comes, the joy and the clarity. I think perhaps what happens as we practice is that we learn to let go – to relax – without having to first hammer ourselves into submission. Lesson 166 has that great observation in it, we are walking through the world with bloody feet, downcast expressions, fear in our hearts, rags on our shoulders, ashes on our cheeks and you want to feel sorrow and pity but . . . those walkers are doing it all to themselves!

      Anyway . . . walking when the sun is up was quite a revelation! Almost makes we want to become a late rather than an early riser. Almost.

      Thanks, Jeanne. Great to hear from you!

  2. Sean I also had a strong emotional reaction to the vulnerability you showed in sharing such a vivid description of the difficulties you are/were having. I don’t know if it comes from having been there myself and understanding the raw desire for help and sense of desperation or what, but it was an interesting experience for me to simply observe my heart respond to the words. Honesty has such tremendous power. My heart basically flooded with what felt like the Answer- with a strong and powerful sense of Love. If that arises naturally in one another in response to a clear call for Love, I can hardly imagine the power of the response from Christ when we offer the gift of our honest desire to Him. Surely the response is indomitable.

    Thanks for sharing in a way that calls the heart into the conversation. It is a delicious feeling, and humbling to participate in.

    Michael

    1. Thank you, Michael. I appreciate that. I share your sense that honesty is powerful. More and more it seems like intense and rigorous honesty is the way – however hard that is at time, and it is hard at times indeed! And yes, it is always nice to slip into the loving space of the accepted answer. Some day we won’t slip out . . .

  3. I can relate, Sean!! There have been many times when I too have resorted to my praying style “pre-ACIM,” whereby I petition Jesus to help me solve some problem that I perceive in my world, and I am usually surprised that by the end of my prayer, I’m no longer concerned about my problem (well, not concerned as much perhaps). My prayer then becomes “let me see this through your eyes, and help me to recognize What I have, and Who I am!” And what I was worried about weighs less on my shoulders, I can breathe easier, and a spark of joy ignites within that carries me through the day. The world responds with such light and clarity!
    Isn’t it all so wonderful!!
    Thanks, Sean!

    1. Thanks Aleta! I am a big believer in not analyzing prayer – just do it! Fall to your knees, sit on a zafu, go for a walk, whatever. The form in which we prayer is never as important as its content – the cry for help or the expression of gratitude for help given and accepted. It is nice indeed to have found a way in which answers are there and accepting them brings peace.

  4. sean i read a lot of acim teachers but none teach from their own struggels like you,i read once that the greatest authur was the one who could artiuculate your numb dumb feelings for you.sean you do that perfectly deepest gratitude

  5. Dear Sean,
    The ACIM lesson today touched me in a deep way, and that was bolstered by your own personal experience. After crying and praying/talking with Jesus, I had a thought to “look at Sean’s site on my computer, rather than using my phone”.
    Each day, I get up at 4 am, and read the ACIM lesson and ponder, sometimes journal, then use my phone to go to your site. I always find additional clarity with your guidance, Sean, and I am grateful for that. For whatever reason, I woke today, feeling “less than”. Still, I sat with the lesson, and when I came upon your own so personal sharing, I began to tear up, for I’ve been there so many times in life, and think, “why is this happening?” Yet, I also recalled, due to your experience, times that clarity came so very clearly, when I let the tears run dry, and let the little will go in favor of THE WILL, and things changed. I quietly nodded to myself and thought of “surrender”. I was surprised at the year of this posting, and as I reflect back to that year, like so many here on this posting, I was going through “stuff” too. Unexpectedly, my husband’s father died, a beloved pet died, I had an emergency surgery, and then, very unexpectedly, my mother died. Back then, it was a whirlwind, and I felt battered. This morning, I just realized, “and yet, here I am.”
    I seem to be a slow learner with ACIM, but I keep plugging along. I am so grateful for your help and guidance. Like so many, I have a tendency to make things more complicated than it needs to be. Thank you.

    1. Hi Fran,

      Thank you for sharing, and for being here.

      For me, the whole point of the Course – and so the whole point of this website – is connection. It is all about that opportunity to join with my brothers and sisters who are also walking this spiritual path. It’s not better or worse than any other path, it’s just our path, at this point in time and space.

      Life can be so hard! Even after moments in the clearing, even after all the freedom God gives us, and the remembrance of that freedom, life goes on being life. The horse goes blind, the dogs die, friends move to other countries, whatever.

      And together we go on, too. I’m glad the whirlwind of that time is past. Maybe there is another one coming! What I am learning – slowly because I too am a slow ACIM learner – is that little by little we get to remember that our interpretation of what happens is the problem, and then we get to loosen our stranglehold on our interpretation and let another Teacher, another Voice, interpret life for us.

      Tara Singh called this witnessing our programming and conditioning rather than fighting or resisting it – especially by trying to improve our lives.

      Anyway, thank you for being here and sharing. Let us be happy today!!

      Love,
      Sean

      1. Sean-all I can say is WOW. I did not expect an answer, let alone today. I particularly appreciate the message of witnessing our programming. Could you clarify about improving? Do you mean it’s a means of witnessing or a means of resisting the witnessing? Thank you so very much!

        1. In my experience, self-improvement is one of the ego’s favorite mind tricks.

          Self-improvement always starts with self-criticism, a form of self-hate, that we rarely notice. The basic idea is that whatever is wrong, it’s my fault and there’s something I can do to make it better. Earn more money, lose weight, go back to therapy, take up yoga, switch careers, new clothes or haircut, splurge on sushi, who knows.

          The ego loves the self-hate – LOVES it – but quickly moves us on to self-improvement because if we see clearly the self-hate we’d challenge it and eventually let go of ego. So the ego moves quickly into the self-help and self-improvement phase of things. There’s a way to get better! And it’s got a bunch of plans! The external world and culture are literally spilling with self-help and self-improvement programs and methods – books, classes, teachers, retreats, diets, workshops, gurus, et cetera.

          The suggestion Tara Singh was making, and it has been very helpful to me, is to just let the conditioning and programming run, and witness it. Let ego do its thing. Notice it doing its thing. Give attention to it. Don’t argue with it, don’t buy what it sells, don’t be enchanted, don’t try to make nice.

          Just notice. Just give attention.

          In my experience, when we commit to just noticing, just giving attention, eventually we remember our perfection and our innocence. There is nothing to improve! Ego is just telling lies and we’re believing them. That’s what falling into the river of our programming and conditioning IS – that’s what getting pulled and tossed and flung around by life IS – listening to and taking literally the ego’s lies.

          But if we just rest and let it ramble – no argument, no resistance – if we don’t buy into its argument that we need improvement – then sooner or later we hear the gentle clear voice of the Holy Spirit remind us of our holiness, and we become increasingly happy and helpful.

          Love,
          Sean

          1. I just have to tell you I WAS going in the direction you lay out. And there was a little niggling voice in my head, “no! You’ll sound stupid! That’s not what they mean at all!” And here….it WAS what was meant. As I said, I’m slow in ACIM, but I don’t want to give up. Thank you again Sean!
            Love
            Fran

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