I was walking with a friend recently, snowy back roads at twilight. While our spiritual paths are different, our general sense of what it means to be spiritual – what the goals are, what the work is, what the results are – is quite similar. Our talks are almost always fruitful.
We were talking about how as one’s relationship with God deepens, the simpler one’s external and temporal existence becomes. Problems are not so vexing; one’s sense of necessity softens. For example, this winter I have to come to regard sunlight on snow as perhaps the loveliest and most dazzling light ever created, and it is given to me on an almost daily basis. My attention to it has intensified to a white heat; my gratefulness in those moments is boundless.
I am only able to perceive winter light this way because I have changed my mind about beauty and giving. And that, I said to my friend, is the textbook definition of a miracle according to A Course in Miracles.
She said – less in response than simply thinking out loud – “they really need to change the name of that thing.”
Beyond a willingness to change, nothing else is required. Love will always do the rest perfectly.
In western (and Christian) culture, we are accustomed to thinking of miracles in terms of the suspension of the laws of physics, or really out-sized gifts from God. Jesus walked on water, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We win the lottery. They are big events that always resolve in our special favor. Thus, when we are diagnosed with cancer, we pray for a miracle – which almost always means that we don’t die. And so forth.
But A Course in Miracles means something else entirely when it talks about miracle. A miracle is first and foremost an expression of love (See T-1.I.1:4, 3:2 and 9:2). Bill Thetford once described them as “the love that sustains the universe.”
It’s the shift in perception that removes the barriers or obstacles to our awareness of love’s presence in our lives.
So it is critical to see that this love is not external but rather “in” our mind. It is a thought (T-1.I.12:1), not an event. They are not caused by what is external so much as reflected there. Sunlight in winter has never not been astounding. But as I practice the course, I become less invested in the active egoic mind, and there is more space to simply appreciate what is given and so, like a blind man who suddenly regains his sight, I can actually see that light, sparkling and prismatic like the eyes of a thousand joyful angels.
And of course, that is not all that I “see.” There is also the cry of owls in the distance at three a.m. There is starlight in the February sky. My daughter playing fur elise on the piano. Homemade peach sauce over homemade vanilla ice cream. Cardinals at the feeder. Chrisoula’s laugh. Emily Dickinson poems received at deeper and deeper levels. The smell of cedar walking, and wood smoke back home while resting. Deer tracks. The brook humming beneath a thick sleeve of ice.
But all those are simply forms: a litany of things through which I can more or less consistently glimpse the love that is God, that is that-which-is, that is Source, Light, the Ground of all Being, etc. And thus perceived, these things lift me in turn, and from that space of gentle elevation, love extends readily and naturally through me. Miracles are not something one does but more in the nature of something one allows God to do without relation to specificity of form. Thus, beyond a willingness to change, nothing else is required. Love will always do the rest perfectly. We just need to get out of the way.
Resistance to the title – A Course in Miracles – is premised on the idea that miracles are not internal shifts of perception in the direction of love, but great big external events that please and sustain the egoic self. When we accept that they are “expressions of love” unrelated to what is external (in the same way a mirror is not related to what it reflects), then the title becomes altogether accurate.
At the time, I certainly didn’t respond positively to that title. However, when you get into the Course and then into the definition of what a miracle is, it does make sense. In fact, it’s the only appropriate name for the Course.
He is right, of course. There is no need to change the name of A Course in Miracles. Instead, there is a need to study it and bring what is learned into application. This takes a miracle: nothing else is needed.
I am happy to see antoher post from you, as I had missed them over the past month. I just wanted to say that your comment about the light and the snow reminds me very much of my own experience when I look at the sky and clouds. It´s been over a year now that I can not look at the sky without being in a state of wonderment and amazement, whether I am looking at geese flying against an expanse of prarie sky near Wichita or whether it is the cloud formations and seagulls circling above my own apartment block in Barcelona. My breath is taken away, because this backdrop of beauty is there even on those days when I busily hurry about immersed in seemingly pressing daily questions that are forgotten a week later. The beauty and perfection that is God is there.
Thanks Emily . . geese are one of my favorites as well. It’s funny how we get obsessed with minutiae that seems important but so quickly fades when we are always offered such profound gifts of beauty. It is has been an unexpected blessing in my study and practice of ACIM, to have my eyes opened so and my mind cleared to see them and accept them.
Thanks for being here . . .
hi sean, i loved the influx of emails of your beautiful writing, it was a gift.
a poem i want to share
I AM NOT I.
I AM THIS ONE
WALKING BESIDE ME WHOM I DO NOT SEE,
WHOM AT TIMES I MANAGE TO VISIT
AND WHOM AT OTHER TIMES I FORGET,
WHO REMAINS CALM AND SILENT WHILE I TALK
AND FORGIVES, GENTLY, WHEN I HATE,
WHO WALKS WHERE I AM NOT
WHO WILL REMAIN STANDING WHEN I DIE
PEACE AND LOVE BROTHER
That is a lovely poem – thank you so much for sharing it – I love Jimenez who has such silence and gracefulness in his poems – thank you again for posting it here . . .
Your posts always resonate so deeply, and this one reminded me of how my perseption has shifted so much since becomeing a student of the Course – and my understanding of a Miracle. As I allow myself to get caught up in the toil of “effect” that the ego dwells in, I feel so grateful that I now have the understanding that brings me back to cause (the mind), which brings me peace I could never find before.. And, though I have always appreciated the beauty of nature, I find myself so much more in tune with it now. The flock of Sandhill cranes that crossed my path this morning brought so much joy to me it actually shocked me.
Thanks – lovely image of sandhill cranes – and the notion of being shocked by so much joy! Yes! I totally get that, especially in the context of nature. The fields and forest – and those who live there – have always been my readiest and surest way to remember God. I would have thought I knew that but like you say, the Course has awakened deeper levels of perception and the beauty is all the more so. We are blessed indeed!
Thank you for reading & being here . . .
Hi Sean, This is the first time in weeks that I received a post from you. I am not exactly sure why. I just wanted to say that we have to remember that while miracles are expressions of love, they are also moments when we let go of an illusion (and it can be any illusion including cancer). They are also moments when we utilize faith (miracles arise from conviction) ; and as Jesus says “There is no problem in any situation… (that means all situations)… that faith will not solve.” Let us not let our insidious unconscious need for sacrifice place a limitation on anything a miracle can do including helping us cross the Red Sea to escape from Pharaoh or raise the dead or walk on water.
Thanks for sharing. The email notifications went down because of a glitch and I had to work out a solution which took some time between teaching, writing, parenting, etc. Damn technology . . .
I hope you and your family are well –
Yes, a miracle is a shift of perception that takes place within the mind. I have been thinking a lot lately of the concept of “flipping the switch” just like turning on a light. We flip the switch from fear to love, from ego voice to Holy Spirit voice, from attack to forgiveness, from guilt to acceptance, from nowhere to a movement toward home. That is the action of the miracle.
Yes – that flipping the switch image is helpful, I think. We are used to thinking of it as a long process but it is really in the nature of a decision – flip! – and then it’s done, because it always was. It just waited on our recognition. Thank you for putting it that way!