A Quiet Mind Wants Nothing

The memory of God comes to the quiet mind (T-23.I.1:1).

There are many ways that we can define this use of “quiet” in A Course in Miracles, but for the moment let’s say that it is a mind that is free of “want.” Can we imagine this?

stillness by the garden in late August . . . a quiet mind remembers wholeness . . .

There are two helpful definitions of “want.” The more common reflects personal desire: I “want” this apple, she “wants” the sun to shine, he “wants” a new job.

The second, older definition refers to an interior scarcity or absence – one “wants” grace, that carriage is in “want” of repair.

What is similar across both definitions is lack. Something is missing so the subject in question (be it a self or a carriage) is not whole. It’s fragmented. It’s separate from that which would complete it. It “wants” completion and it “wants” what it thinks it needs to to be complete.

So the suggestion is that a mind that is free of want is a mind that does not see itself as broken or partial. And that is the mind to which the memory of God comes.

Is that our experience of mind – that it is not broken or partial? That it is not fragmented? This isn’t a question of having a clear intellectual grasp on “wholeness” as a concept. Be honest: when giving attention to mind, is there a seamless whole or a bunch of parts variously interrelated, each spilling into the other?

If we are honest and attentive, most of us will say that the mind is fractured. It darts around like a hummingbird – feeding at this image, now feeding at this idea, now flitting off to some new image or idea. It doesn’t do what we tell it to do. There’s a lot of stuff in it that we would prefer not be there.

The kind of thought we are talking about is physical – it arises in a brain that is processing data supplied by the working senses. The sunset is beautiful, our stomach is growling, our spouse is talking to us, it’s almost time to pick up the kids from band practice, et cetera.

Judgment informs this kind of thought. This kind of thought can’t exist without judgment. Our preference for this kind of weather over another, for giving attention to our spouse instead of to the television, for eating a salad instead of potato chips, for keeping track of time in order to ensure our kids are safe and happy . . .

Can we see – by giving gentle sustained attention – that “want” is the premise of thought’s busy-ness because it is an extension of the body? Wanting food, wanting to be a good parent or spouse, wanting beauty or soothing music, wanting to feel energetic rather than bloated and so forth?

In other words, can we see that the “quiet mind” the course refers to is not the mind of the body and so therefore must be something else?

The Christ in you inhabits not a body. Yet he is in you. And thus it must be that you are not within a body. What is within you cannot be outside. And it is certain that you cannot be apart from what is at the very center of your life. What gives you life cannot be housed in death. No more can you (T-25.in.1:1-7).

If we want to know the whole, then we stop looking only at the parts. We don’t make it a problem that has to be solved. It isn’t a spiritual crisis. It’s just not the whole.

The self that is yoked to a body – which includes thoughts and ideas, memories and dreams, hopes and fears, spiritual practices and communities of faith, friends and families and enemies – is not Christ. The self that is yoked to a body fears nonexistence and cannot bear witness to that which it is not. It knows it’s not the whole, but it doesn’t know what the whole is.

That self is in a literal sense the separation. All that flows through it – and all through which it flows – is a product of separation. Sometimes pleasing, sometimes unpleasing but never whole. Sometimes content, sometimes enraged but never the peace that surpasses understanding.

It is very hard to imagine this Christ – this whole mind “at the very center” which “cannot be housed in death.” How do we respond to that which does not arise as a being we can meet? How do we engage with that which does arise an idea we can discuss? To even ask the question – what is this Christ and how do I make contact with it – is to violate the premise. Ask and you shall not be answered.

Wanting this “Christ” doesn’t help us. You can want Christ or you can want crisis, and the want is still the same. Want involves what is not whole perceiving that which it believes would make it whole. It perceives an opposite – a “something else” that was subtracted from the whole and which can be added back.

But again, be honest. Has anything you ever acquired truly ended your seeking? Has any person or job or book or house or anything ever made you whole?

The truth is – from the perspective of the body and the thoughts which appear to animate it – whatever we get is never enough. Want just keeps on running. It’s like an algorithm that won’t stop churning so long as the hardware is there for it to run on.

It is like this “opposite” – this “something more” – is not actually “more” at all. Nor is it “less.” Upon examination, it becomes a concept whose helpfulness is really “hollowness.” It’s a gust of wind on top of a gust of wind. It isn’t there and so it can’t be brought here.

If we can see that, then we can see this too: whatever wholeness is, whether we call it Christ or Source or God or Life, we are looking for it the wrong way. It’s here – we’ve got it – but somehow we’re not seeing the fact of it. There’s nothing to get; nothing to give up. It’s all here right now. And somehow we manage to keep overlooking or not noticing this.

We are like children who throw our ball away and then complain loudly that we don’t have a ball. Somebody brings it back to us and we throw it away again. “I don’t have a ball.” On and on it goes.

We can hold the ball in our hands or we can throw it away: it’s still our ball. We can close our eyes and pretend there’s no ball, or look in another direction and pretend the ball is lost, but there’s still a ball and it’s still our ball.

If we want to know the whole, stop looking only at the parts.

When you see a part, say “that’s not the whole.” Don’t make it into a problem to be solved. It isn’t a spiritual crisis. It’s just not the whole. So we aren’t going to call it that.

We don’t have to fix anything. This can’t be said enough. We only have to see the problem where and as it is and the problem is undone. That’s because it’s not a real problem. Withdraw your support and its gone. Stop throwing the ball away, and the ball stays with you. You’ve got the ball.

So maybe we can rephrase the sentence from A Course in Miracles we started with: “The memory of God comes to the quiet mind” (T-23.I.1:1).

Let’s say instead that the memory of God is a quiet mind because it is free of want. It wants for nothing and wants nothing because it has everything. It’s whole. It’s holy. It isn’t ours. It can’t be reached.

But when everything it is not falls away – is seen as unreal – then it’s what remains. It’s all there is.


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