Christ is Given

Christ is given as the light in which Love is remembered, and therefore there is nothing to seek. There is something to accept – to remember – but nothing to seek.

red_flower
The interior silence
to which beauty brings us
is the light of Christ
in which all things –
including Christ –
are seen

It is like Christmas morning. Upon seeing gifts beneath the tree, what do we do? We open them gratefully in the presence of those who have gifted us and who we have gifted in turn. We don’t put on our coats and boots and embark on a lifelong search for gifts which are right there.

Christ is given.

Yet for many of us, “Christ is given” exists as an ideal rather than a felt or lived fact. It could be our reality, but it’s actually not. For it to be our reality, we believe we have to do something – meditate more, go to church, study A Course in Miracles, work at a soup kitchen, eat fewer potato chips.

When we believe that – and act according to that belief – we are unaware that Christ is given. This unawareness is a function of our unwillingness to accept that Christ is given (rather than earned or bargained for or distributed only to the worthy).

Unwillingness is a form of fear. The way it plays out in our living might look different (i.e., the reasons we give for our unwillingness – lack of meditation, anger at the church one grew up in, et cetera) but fear itself is not different. Fear is fear, in the same way that joy is joy. But at the level of relative being, fear and joy wear masks that reflect our belief in differences. And we have to meet the problem where it is, which is to say, how it appears.

A problem cannot be solved if you do not know what it is. Even if it is really solved already you will still have the problem, because you will not recognize that it has been solved (W-pI.79.1:1-2).

The apparent specificity of our problems is the means by which we go beyond specificity to the generalized guilt and fear which arise from a decision to be separate from God.

So what do I see when I give attention to my unwillingness to accept that Christ is given as the light in which Love is remembered, and so there is nothing to seek?

For me, I see a long line of books, a deep course of study that includes Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Husserl, Tara Singh, Sylvia Plath, Krishnamurti, Humberto Maturana, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Gertrude Stein, Francisco Varela, Donald Hoffman, Louis Kauffman, Chris Fields, Diana Gasparyan . . .

I see the hundreds of thousands of words I have written, some public and some not, as I have sought in my half-assed and stumbling way to be in dialogue with these women and men . . .

I see a fluid and beautiful web of insight comprised of vigilance and discipline and intellectual tenacity, my own and that of others.

And yet this web floats untethered. It is ungrounded. Because it is untethered and ungrounded it is unstable and thus incapable of meaningful and sustained function.

When I look at my unwillingness, I see that I have neglected something. I see that all my study has somehow missed a most basic fact, some critical underlying fundament that would ground it, allow it to be helpfully functional.

So, for me, unwillingness takes the form of study – an investment in and attachment to an intellectual pursuit of knowledge, insight, truth. I’d rather study Christ, than know Christ. In fact, in a way, I study Christ to avoid knowing Christ.

Seeing it this way allows me to realize that whatever I do going forward, it cannot take the form of more study.

In this way, I realize that “unwillingness in the form of aggressive intellectual study” is actually fear. Plain old fear. And to be fearful is to choose to be separate, and to believe that separation is a meaningful choice.

. . . dissociation is nothing more than a decision to forget. What has been forgotten then appears to be fearful, but only because the dissociation is an attack on truth. You are fearful because you have forgotten. And you have replaced your knowledge by an awareness of dreams because you are afraid of your dissociation, not what you have dissociated (T-10.II.1:2-5).

That last line is very important. Our decision to be separate is what frightens us, not what we have chosen to be separate from. We tend to look at our fear and think it is fear of God or love or divine retribution or punishment or some other kind of horrible loss or sacrifice.

But really, we are just scared of a decision that we made. This is important! It shifts the “problem” from outside of us to inside; it shifts responsibility for fear from “out there” to our own self.

Our decision to separate ourselves from Love begets a world that is vast and complex and serves entirely to justify our fear. Nuclear war, unexpected meteors, plagues and viruses, incurable cancer, fatal car crashes . . . Of course we are scared. Of course we are fearful.

And yet.

A Course in Miracles – like many spiritual curricula – gently suggests that there is another way, and that this other way is to simply look at our fear where it is (the interior) and notice it is not nearly so catastrophic or overwhelming as it initially appears. We give attention to our fear, which is to become responsible for it, and over time, this gift of attention, this gentle nondramatic responsibility, undoes fear, until at last we see clearly the simplicity of choosing to remember love, which is to say, choosing to remember that Christ is given as the light in which Love is remembered, and so there is nothing to seek.

Our problem isn’t the absence of Christ, or our distance from Christ, or confusion about Christ. It is our belief that Christ – that Love – is absent or distant.

If you could recognize that your only problem is separation, no matter form it takes, you could accept the answer because you would see its relevance. Perceiving the underlying constancy in all the problems that seem to confront you, you would understand you have the means to solve them all. And you would use the means, because you recognize the problem (W-pI.79.6:204).

What form does our unwillingness take? Seeing it, can we let it go? Can we perceive the fear beyond it and then can we let the fear be? Can we simply look at the fear in order to learn what it is, what it wants, how it functions, where it comes from and so forth? Doing so is what undoes it. Doing nothing in particular is healing because it brings us into contact with something deeper than fear, which is Love.

No more than this attentiveness is required; no more could be required. In the gentle and sustained application of attention, the answer to all our so-called problems will appear because it is already given.

Undoing Ego-Based Thinking

Ego is not a thing – an object or actor making decisions affecting us – so much as a pattern of thinking. It is a form of mental conditioning that guides behavior and brings forth a certain world. Critically, ego is not the only way to think and act, and the world it brings forth is not our actual home.

The most effective tool for seeing this – and allowing it to be undone – that I have encountered is A Course in Miracles (though I stipulate that my personal study and practice of the course differs, sometimes substantively, from more traditional applications).

Ego owns the quality of a whirlpool: its energy tends to suck everything into meaningless repetitive cycles. When we are given to egocentric thinking, we view everything through the lens of a single conditioned pattern. Everything appears according to the dictates of the lens. The lens literally becomes a dictator of perception. It is like wearing blue glasses. Everything is not actually blue but does appear blue so long as you wear the glasses. Then imagine the glasses can talk and are constantly arguing that if you take them off you’ll be blinded or worse . . .

That’s a helpful analogy because it makes clear that our subservience to the so-called dictator is a matter of choice (even if we can’t presently see the choice). It’s a decision we made and, because we have the power to make that decision, we can make a different one. We can – as ACIM puts it – choose again (and better 🙂 )

For most of us, this “single conditioned pattern” becomes so pervasive that we forget that other ways of thinking and perceiving exist, are viable, sustainable, loving, gentle, helpful et cetera. Subject to the whirling violence of the ego, we become unhappy, anxious, depressed, guilty and fearful. Under those circumstances, Bill Thetford’s insight – there must be another way – becomes truly revolutionary, even though in another sense, it is perfectly obvious to the point of being mundane.

I use “violence” with respect to egoic patterns of thinking here specifically. The ego is a way of denying “another way.” It insists that there is only one way to see things, one way to know things, one way to experience things and that way is its way. When we refuse to consider something on its own terms, when we insist that something is only the way we think/see/say it is then we deny that other thing’s actual existence. Denying the existence of something is a form of violence. Not allowing the existence of others is violent. The ego’s insistence on itself and its prerogative – which by definition denies the existence of anything else, let alone “another way” – is violent.

So ego-based thinking is a pattern of thinking that is inherently violent. And because we are actually inherently gentle, kind, nurturing and loving, we feel acutely the pain of egoic thinking and acting. It is deeply contrary to the fundamental truth of our being. We feel guilty on its account and then repress (through projection and denial) that guilt and pain which makes it that much harder to heal the guilt and pain. We cannot love what we refuse to see.

A Course in Miracles is a way – not the way but a way – of thinking creatively about about how mind works and does not work, and then bringing that insight to bear on the question of love-as-our-being. It is clarifying and its clarity naturally undoes many of the pernicious effects of confused, misdirected and dysfunctional thinking. It is a way of healing – by undoing – egoic thinking.

Students of A Course in Miracles are called to a kind of attentiveness. We are called to witness our thinking in order to restore to awareness our fundamental unity with Creation, which is Being Itself.

As you share my unwillingness to accept error in yourself and others, you must join the great crusade to correct it; listen to my voice, learn to undo error and act to correct it. The power to work miracles belongs to you (T-1.III.1:6-7).

Thus, we give attention to our thinking in order to discern errors in thinking that bring forth projection and denial and the refusal to be responsible for love. That is what a miracle is: a shift in thinking away from fear and towards love. They occur when we actively give attention to them as possibility; in a sense, to look for a miracle is itself a miracle.

In this sense, “giving attention” can function as a spiritual practice effectively instantiated by A Course in Miracles. This can be formal, integrating traditional mindfulness and meditation practices, but it doesn’t have to be. The important thing is to trust the process, and to allow it to arise as a spontaneous expression of our creative unity, our integrated Being that includes God, Self, Other, Jesus, Buddha, angels, Arten and Pursah, whales, starlight and electric lawnmowers. Nothing is excluded – that’s how we know it’s divine.

Giving attention becomes a means of perceiving that what we call “ego” is not as solid or inflexible as we are trained to think (as it trains us to think). It is not as impregnable or unassailable as it asserts. Perceiving this truth naturally undoes the ego’s gravitational pull. Ego is weakened every time we question it, every time we make even a little space for “another way.”

More specifically, a spaciousness emerges in which egoic patterns of thought and behavior can actually be assessed for helpfulness and relevance. Seen clearly as dysfunctional and unhelpful, who wants it? A sense of freedom obtains because we are less caught up in unreflective living. We become intentional and our intentions are guided by a sense of equality, inclusiveness, kindness, gentleness. We are less blocked, less defensive. We are happy, and our happiness gives itself away.

Together, this spaciousness and freedom are love – not the personal love that excludes others by choosing favorites but an impersonal love that eschews conditions and qualifications. Love abides; its expression and welcome is natural and ongoing. It lets go and lets be. Egocentric patterns of thought cannot prevail against it.

As Humberto Maturana observes, “We talk about love as if it were special and rare, something difficult to achieve – but it is a really ordinary thing.”

But it is special in a different way. When the emotion of love is there, then vision expands . . . the legitimacy of the existence of the other does not mean you have to like, or want to be near the person, being, or circumstance to love it – it means that you have to let it be, to see it (The Biology of Business: Love Expands Intelligence).

Thus, we are not trying to banish the ego or vanquish the ego or negotiate with the ego or anything like that. We are merely noticing it, noticing its effects, and trusting that our noticing contains powerful seeds of healing. There are other ways and we are not alien to them. As we slip the ego’s constriction, those other ways appear to us. They are already given.

Ultimately, the gift of attention is the gift of love. Ego is a way of saying “no” to this gift, but the gift remains. Love remains. Attention is a way of saying “yes” and accepting – by offering – the gift again.

A Course in Miracles: Spirit Makes No Comparisons

Everything that we perceive arises as – and on account of – distinctions. A raspberry is not a blueberry which is not a bowl of ice cream which is not the river flowing in the distance. Given our structure, in order for anything to be brought forth, it must be distinguished from what it is not.

If you look into this, you will see how it works. Just look at the cup; look at the river; look at your desires and dreams. After a while, one naturally begins to wonder what the first distinction is, or even what the ground from which the first distinction (and all subsequent distinctions) arise.

These are fun and interesting questions! The challenge is that, given our structure – both physical and cognitive – we cannot reach the undifferentiated ground from which all distinctions arise. We can speculate about the ground; we can argue for its existence. But we can’t reach it. The Beginning, the Source, God, the Divine Et Cetera – remains forever separate from us (at least in form 🙂 ).

A Course in Miracles asserts that this habit of distinction – which is separation – represents the fundamental difference between ego and spirit. Ego distinguishes, and its distinctions are its ongoing struggle to live; spirit does not make comparisons and thus lives forever.

Critically, spirit cannot be known via comparisons (or judgment of any kind).

Spirit . . . is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. This is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp (T-4.II.11:9, 11-13).

This bright line – spirit here, ego there – is the foundation of ACIM’s assertion that spirit is forever unaware of ego and vice-versa (e.g., T-4.II.8:5-8). You can’t get there from here. You can’t have a spiritual experience as an ego.

But there is hope because our distinction-making minds can learn to be “right-minded.” To be right-minded is be “uniformly without attack” (T-4.II.10:2) because the mind understands and accepts without question that spirit “is not in danger and does not need to be salvaged” (T-4.II.9:7).

Ego’s dominion crumbles when we no longer perceive spirit as an enemy – that is, as a separate object that has something we want (eternal life, perfect joy) that it won’t just share with us. Our battle with our misperception of spirit is literally what the ego is. When we stop fighting, ego is gone.

This is what A Course in Miracles intimates right-mindedness is. And the inevitable outcome of this healed clarity is the realization that perception itself is unnecessary (T-4.II.11:3).

That is a powerful statement that makes no sense – and cannot make sense – to the structure that we have and with which we are aligned. How can one live without perception?

You may ask how this is possible as long as you appear to be living in this world. That is a reasonable question. You must be careful, however, that you really understand it. Who is the “you” who are living in this world? (T-4.II.11.5-8).

To the body, the world and other bodies will always be real. They will always be the beginning of our questioning, which means that – as regards what the body cannot understand – and our answers will be confused and unhelpful. You can’t explain how a bicameral legislature works to a child; no more can you explain spirit’s function to the ego (whose very existence depends on misunderstanding).

So the work as such is to let go of ego. This happens when we give attention to our living and notice when we are thinking egoically – which is to say, in terms and conditions that make sense only to bodies. I want this and if I don’t get it I’ll be miserable, I must have that to prove to everyone I’m special, that person is evil, this person is not pleasing me, et cetera.

Noticing these thought patterns is not easy! We are habituated to thinking from the perspective – the location – of a body at stake in a world. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to take the alternative slowly, to admit to confusion or even fear. It’s okay to notice ego but still not understand how to think another way – with God or Spirit or Christ.

Admitting our status as beginners is what brings forth the ladder we ascend to joy and peace; it’s what makes the ascent possible.

In truth, as soon as we open ourselves up to the confusion that a good question initially begets, we are no longer of the ego, but are turning our attention to the abstract light of Christ, or Spirit, which is itself the answer.

That is, we begin to perceive that the answer is not how to better use the body, or better relate to other bodies, but rather to attend the light – the life – in which those bodies are brought forth.

The Kingdom of Heaven is you. What else but you did the Creator create, and what else but you is His Kingdom? . . . Your ego and your spirit will never be co-creators, but your spirit and your Creator will always be (T-4.III.1:4-5).

In other words, there is no distinction between “having the Kingdom of God and being the Kingdom of God” (T-4.9:7). The body believes there is a difference; spirit knows otherwise.

In your own mind, though denied by the ego, is the declaration of your release. God has given you everything (T-4.III.9:1-2).

Give attention. Let the world soften and blur. Let the body be a body. When we release the body from the demands of ego, it becomes a prism through which the light of Christ – which is the light of Love – streams. We are not the object which notices those streams; we are the streams. We are together – the very streams of Love.

What are Miracles

In A Course in Miracles, miracles are shifts in mind away from fear and towards love. In that sense, our function as miracle workers is to become consistently and sustainably miracle-minded. To be patient, kind and gentle where we were formerly impatient, unkind and rough. Or, simpler yet, to be loving where we were formerly fearful.

That is easy enough to say but remarkably difficult to bring into application. It is the gap between saying “God is Love” and actually living that way. We do it at some times and in some places. We do it with some people. But we do not do it uniformly or consistently. Why? Why do we resist what would make deeply, naturally and sustainably happy?

I think the unsexy is answer is simply that our conditioning in favor of fear is sufficiently powerful that undoing it is not easy and thus presents as undesirable. The radical and unconditional love to which A Course in Miracles directs our attention often appears irrational or even impossible, the domain of saints and martyrs.

Yet I suggest that this radical and unconditional love is our fundament – is the very ground and essence of our being – and so is deeply natural and even effortless. It is our shared domain, brought forth through mutuality – through cooperation, coordination and communication. It is our life but unrecognized, unrealized. Hence our feeling of loss, separation, victimhood, spiritual poverty, et cetera.

Of course, the hope in all that is simply that we already are what we week. Therefore, the solution as such is simply to see clearly what already is. We don’t nee to obtain anything new – an idea, a teacher, a practice. We simply give attention – settle into stillness and acceptance – and allow Love to reveal itself to us again, to presently remember itself in our living.

The final five lessons of A Course in Miracles direct us to a meditation practice in which we surrender self-centered control and goal-setting in favor of giving attention to what is. We do not direct what arises, or master what arises, or modify what arises. We merely observe what arises as it arises.

And if I need a word to help me, Love will give it to me. If I need a thought, that will Love also give. And if I need but stillness and a tranquil, open mind, these are the gifts I will receive of Love. Love is in charge by my request (W-pII.361-365.1:1-4).

[This is easier to understand if we remind ourselves that God is Love, and amend the workbook language accordingly, as I have done here]

Thus, the culmination of our study and practice is the work of sitting quietly with Love, allowing life to live itself through us, without interference or resistance of any kind (grasping, obsessing, controlling, et cetera).

I do not suggest this is easy. But I do suggest it is natural. And that after a little egoic blather, Mind settles and what arises is Love – in and out of familiar forms (friends, teachers, bluets, guitars, horses, home-baked bread, dreams, chocolate, orgasms, Emily Dickinson poems, chickadees, deer prints by the river, starlight, spinach seeds and so forth).

In that sense, A Course in Miracles falls away because it must, because it is not actually there, and yet paradoxically remains present if we need to gently touch it or be held by it, when touching or being held is helpful.

There is no shame but only helpfulness in giving warm welcome to the many formal symbols Love assumes in our Living.

For our practice now is merely to turn repeatedly towards Love – to bring forth Love in all we do – which is finally to lose our selves in Love – to forget that which is not Love – which together is to find the still and silent Self we are – together – in Love.

ACIM: Healing through and with Others

I suggest that the other – I am thinking primarily of people here, but the suggestion applies as broadly as one wishes, reaching sunflowers, galaxies and time – is a construction, and that special attention should be given to others we construct who we love to distraction, as well as those we despise to distraction. This is what it means to heal through and with others.

I suggest the other we hate and the other we love are the same person in that they reflect the same interior process of construction, and that they thus reflect the same fundamental problem which is “distraction from love’s creative function.”

This raises two broad questions:

1. How or why is the other constructed? Who constructs? Of what is the other constructed?

And 2. Distraction from what?

The second question is actually easier to answer, and in terms of happiness, inner peace and remembrance of unity with God – more important to answer.

The answer is: distraction from our capacity as love to create, which I distinguish – loosely tracking the language of A Course in Miracles – from our capacity as egos to make.

That is, we construct (or make) the other, and this process of construction is a poor imitation of the process of creation which does not create others but rather as love creates love. Or, more aptly, domains in which love recognizes and remembers itself.

Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself, and can therefore abolish both. You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator. Everything else is your own nightmare, and does not exist. Only the creations of light are real (T-1.I.24:1-4).

This is consonant with the course’s insistent that Mind is always creating (T-2.VI.9:7), and always producing “form at some level” (T-2.VI.9:14).

What about the first question: how or why do we make the other, especially the special others, who we either hate or love (or sometimes both) to such unhelpful distraction?

A traditional way of thinking about living is that an external world exists apart from us – it’s out there – and that we perceive a faithful reproduction of it via our senses and then think about that reproduction – name it, categorize it, et cetera.

On this view, others are just . . . there. As are we. And some of those others are attractive to the point where we cannot think clearly in their presence, and some are so awful that we cannot think clearly about them or their existence.

A Course in Miracles – and other traditions too, like, say, radical constructivism – assert that we have it backwards. Thought creates the external; consciousness, not matter, is the foundation. And so what we are is consciousness, or awareness, or thoughts in the mind of God or what-have-you, and that is what others are as well.

On this view, those “others” are actually our own self, idealized or despised, but always idolized. We “fall” for this appearance (or projection or dissociation) of our self – into either love or hate – and our falling becomes the full focus of our living. It eats up all our attention. It doesn’t want to share.

When we are in love, we experience this idolization as pleasing. When we are in hate, we experience it as painful. How could it be otherwise? We are always happier when we accept ourselves; and we are always unhappier when we reject ourselves.

The other is just an extension of this basic principle: know thyself, and do unto others as you would do unto your own self.

And, as mentioned above, this idolization and the intensity of the feelings it engenders, distracts us from what is really going on which is the action of creativity that is naturally inherent in consciousness, or Mind, or God, or the Mind-of-God.

[Note my intentional point here that what we call this is far less important than that we perceive It at all; naming matters but not to the extent we usually assert]

So what do we do?

1. We get clear on our confusion. We realign our thinking with coherence. We do this through study and reflection (or clarity and contemplation); and

2. We examine for viability what we learn; we bring it into application, as Tara Singh often said. We become service-minded.

I have been better at the first step than the second, though the distinction between them is thinner than first appears. They are less like steps, one leading to the other, than like puppies chasing one another in a happy circle.

So, you know, what theories or belief systems or traditions appeal to you? Resonate for you? The spiritual ones, the philosophical ones, the psychological ones, the linguistic ones . . . Study them. Understand them. As best you can, know what they are and how and why they matter to you.

You can never do this perfectly or finally because learning is always ongoing – always in flux – but you can become familiar with the general ongoingness. You can swim with the current, rather than against it.

And then, naturally, give attention to how your living is affected by this study. In what ways are you happier? Calmer? Gentler? More helpful?

In my experience “happier, calmer, gentler and more helpful” are intimately connected to others. That is, our living is fundamentally relational (thus indicating the oneness that is our fundament).

But this connecting focuses less on the apparent individuals involved, and more on the collective that together those apparent individuals comprise, and – somewhat more abstractly – on creation itself, which is to say, on “happiness, calm, gentleness and helpfulness” without embodied reference points (apparently collective *or individual).

This represents an inversion of traditional models of thinking, especially with respect to cause-and-effect, but it is eminently doable, and there are lots of paths/traditions/practices to provide guidance and companionship. There are no royal roads, but plenty of fellow travelers and maps of varying quality. The way, as such, is arduous but not nearly to the extent we fear.

It begins and ends in the other, a role I cheerfully play for you, increasingly intentionally, and a role you play for me, my gratitude for which is hard to put into words.

This mutuality is our truth, as such, and when we understand it not as some deep metaphysical pronouncement but more akin to puppies chasing their tails, then we’re pretty much already saved.