Between Easters: the Holy Instant

Presently I am between Easters. We celebrated Easter with the Catholic side of the family last week and we will celebrate Orthodox Easter with the Greek side tomorrow. It is a happy time.

Of course, as a student of A Course in Miracles, and a half-assed Teacher of God, Easter – the resurrection inherent in choosing again for peace and Love, of accepting atonement for oneself, of loving in a loveless place – is an ongoing process, not an event. It’s a practice, not a holiday.

But what does it mean for resurrection to be an ongoing process rather than an event in time?

As I understand and practice A Course in Miracles, it means giving attention to the holy instant, which over the past year has assumed an increasing vitality and helpfulness in my experience, anchoring what it means to be in holy relationship, and to be healed.

I want here to share some recent notes about the holy instant that come from an ongoing dialogue about healing. A sister and I have been working together for a year or so, a shared inquiry and application of spiritual learning that has been deeply liberating.

We are both aware in our dialogue that healing – to be healing – must extend beyond the limitations imposed by bodies – it’s not about us because it’s never about us – and so I offer these notes in case others find them helpful, insightful, or whatever.

Or not! That’s okay, too šŸ™


Just some random thoughts in response to your email yesterday. Thank you for asking about the holy instant; the emphasis on it arose early in our dialogue. It has become a vital part of my ACIM practice.

First, the logic of it, the understanding of it. The logos of it.

Strictly speaking, neither the past nor the future are here now, and so they cannot be causes of what is. The present is not shaped by either the past or the future; it is free of them; it is of another order. It’s not about time, as bodies understand time – a flow that moves in one direction, birth to death, yesterday to tomorrow.

And the easiest way to understand this “other order” is simply to see that the past and the future are not – here and now – capable of causing anything.

Basically, they are illusions.

We can pretend they are causes! But it’s the same pretense as pretending that the moon circles the earth. Looks that way, yes. Doesn’t feel like the earth moves, yes. But truth is true, and only truth is true. The moon does not circle the earth; the past and the future are not causes. We can indulge the fiction – there may even be cogent arguments for why we should indulge the fiction – but it’s still fiction.

ACIM just asks us to be clear about this, to notice it. Logically, the past and the future are not what we assume they are. They can’t cause pain or peace.

Seeing this made me curious: what does cause pain or peace then? And what is the present if not a temporal experience of the past being translated into the future?

The answer is: Mind. Only mind creates effects.

And now a hopefully not irrelevant side note . . .

I am reading – skimming is probably a better word – “Preconquest Consciousness,” an essay by E. Richard Sorenson, and the general thesis is that duality – by which time and space and matter were suddenly elevated to primacy over consciousness/awareness, which elevation was also the birth of ego, a pattern of human thinking that emphasizes the individual over and above the collective, at the expense of the collective – is a fairly recent (past 10,000 years, say) development.

On Sorenson’s view, ego is a cultural artefact and the conditions that brought it forth are the same conditions it zealously and viciously defends and extends by any means possible – separation, perception of differences, judgment, scarcity, competition et cetera. And this is a huge human problem that we are only just now beginning to rethink and correct because, personally, locally and globally, it is very very clear that something is deeply tragically amiss.

Buddha and Jesus are examples of early corrections – and they remain nontrivial. The problem of ego was thouands of years old when they enountered it (and encountered, too, early religious attempts to respond to it, which they radically and helpfully re-interpreted).

Buddha responds (I am generalizing wildly, apologies to our Buddhist brothers and sisters) by teaching us how to meditate in way that untangles thought patterns and mental moves that collectively are ego, and thus remember a state of nondual awareness that naturally extends unto the world.

And Jesus advocates a radical reimagining of the collective, all of us functioning as brothers and sisters, as equal children of a Loving Creator whose only goal is our shared happiness, which happiness is a present condition presently unrecognized.

Both are nonviolent; both are service-oriented; and both point to a transcendent Love that is non-dual in nature.

The Jesus we encounter in A Course in Miracles connects with Buddha by emphasizing the present, the holy instant, and suggesting that one reaches it – remembers it, experiences it – as a practice, as a thing we do in bodies in the world. Just like one can do zazen, one can practice the holy instant.

Logos – which is basically all the preceding paragraphs – brings us to the practice, to the actual Cave of the Heart (I am borrowing Abhishiktananda’s phrasing here). It’s helpful to know the argument, be able to articulate it, know the broad cultural strokes of it. It’s helpful to know the way to the Cave. Maps are not beside the point.

But when one reaches the Cave of the Heart, then one has to let the map go (whether it’s Sorenson, Bourgeault or even A Course in Miracles).

We enter the Cave empty-handed. There is no other way to enter it.

You ask what the holy instant feels like. It is a testament to our relationship that I can at least try to answer that.

The holy instant is clear and quiet. There is only one thought and it cannot be symbolized. There is nothing to possess or own because everything is given, and given equally. It is vivid and electric, but also deeply relaxing. It is a great power creating only peace and love. It cannot be mistaken. Once sampled, it undoes the desire for any substitute or simulacra.

The holy instant is a gift, not an accomplishment. It is a gift that is already given. The work is not to do anything to achieve or merit or gain it but to see that we can not do anything and to accept that. This is easy to say and hard to do, because we are inherently problem-solvers and meaning-makers. That is what ego is.

Premeditated meditation or contemplative prayer – sitting with an expectation, a goal (of awakening, inner peace, lower blood pressure, whatever) however subtle or apparently pure – will not work.

Letting go of our very nature and identity is murderously hard. As you know, the existential crisis it begets is no joke.

We cannot do this work alone, which is why spiritual friendships like ours are so vital, and why clarity about the Holy Spirit – knowing how to recognize Its voice, how to discern it from ego – is so essential.

Experience of the holy instant comes and goes. It is a teaching tool because it both shows us what true peace and happiness are (thus motivating us) and because it teaches us precisely what the Course is saying about being radical in our acceptance of Love (as Jesus and Buddha were).

The holy instant is both profoundly deconstructive (in a Derridean sense) and profoundly creative. It is endlessly a death, and endlessly a birth. In that way, it transcends both.

Nothing outside of it is real; nothing within it can be threatened.

Happy Easter and thanks again for being here with me.


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  1. I very much appreciate your commentary on the message conveyed within ACIM. I find your perspective very helpful in my own contemplation and understanding. Thanks

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