Pacing in the ACIM Daily Lessons

The early lessons of A Course in Miracles go slowly, the one building on the other in ways that can feel so slight as to be almost negligible. We might long for the express lane to awakening, or a path that appears less obtuse. Yet both the pace and the logic of the progression of the ACIM daily lessons builds a strong foundation for healing at the level of mind.

The sixth lesson of A Course in Miracles is a good example of this: “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”

We are not consistently happy. Our sense of peace and joy is always compromised. If we are not hurt or angry or guilty in one moment, we may well be in the next, and so a sense of impermanence always threatens even our happiest moments. Lesson Six of A Course in Miracles is an invitation to deepen our understanding that both our distress and our fragile inner peace are illusory because they they are premised on a wrong idea.

If we can reach that wrong idea, and see its ineffectiveness, then we can replace it with a better idea, which is to say, we can begin to re-learn a joy and inner peace that are not conditional.

We think that we are angry because so-and-so stepped on our toe. Or because it rained on our picnic. We think we are depressed because our preferred candidate didn’t win election. We think we are scared because the world isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously.

That is, we notice our feelings and we identify their cause. Absent the cause, we wouldn’t feel the way we feel. And the causes are always outside our control. I can’t fix the rain, I can’t cast more than one more vote, I can’t keep the world from stepping on my toes.

Lesson six does not deny the law of cause-and-effect, nor the way that it appears in our lives, but it does suggest that we reconsider our certainty that the external world can actually function as a cause. We are asked to name “the form of the upset (anger, fear, worry, depression and so on) and the perceived source very specifically” (W-pI.6.1:2).

This specificity is what allows us to anchor the lesson in a personal way (these are my feelings), and also in a way that feels logical and rational (this is the world I live in). The lesson’s effectiveness – and the workbook’s overall effectiveness – is strengthened by this.

For example, we might say “I am angry at my boss because she doesn’t recognize how much overtime I give to my job.”

Or, “I am depressed about my marriage because my partner no longer expresses much interest in me.”

Or, “I am scared because I don’t have enough money to pay next month’s property tax bill.”

To the ego – that is, to the habitual thought patterns that characterize our thinking minds – these seem like reasonable statements. Who would disagree?

But to each them, without qualification or conditions, Lesson Six adds: “I see something that is not there” (W-pI.6.1:4-5).

That is, the actual cause of our upset is not the named external cause but rather the fact that we “see something that is not there.”

In other words, both the form of our upset and the apparent cause are illusions. We think they are real – they certainly seem real and feel real – yet they are not. We are getting worked up literally over nothing.

But not quite nothing! For so long as we accept fear and guilt and anger as a part of our reality – to be judged good or bad, reasonable or unreasonable, to be mitigated, resisted, et cetera – than those experiences will remain real for us.

Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions (T-5.V.4:1-4).

Thus, lesson six allows us to begin undoing what we have accepted into our mind. We look at the specific forms of our upset and distress as well as their perceived causes, but beyond that – as the lessons and our study and practice progress – we are undoing the very idea that what we are can be vulnerable at all.

. . . God created you as part of Him. That is both where you are and what you are. It is completely unalterable. It is total inclusion. You cannot change it now or ever. It is forever true. It is not a belief, but a Fact. Anything that God created is as true as He is. Its truth lies only in its perfect inclusion in Him Who alone is perfect. To deny this is to deny yourself and Him, since it is impossible to accept one without the other (T-6.II.6:2-11).

Accepting this as our actual identity feels like a big step and, as we currently think and live, is is, but keep in mind that we are not called on to make it either alone or all at once. Indeed, the Lessons of A Course in Miracles aim at gently but surely correcting our thought process so that accepting our oneness with God does not feel like a big or scary or dramatic step. Rather, it feels natural. It feels like saying “yes to what already is.

To that end, Lesson Six is a gentle nudge to look more closely at our thinking, and to consider that it may not be working very well. That’s really it. We are getting tied up in knots over something that’s not there. We are like children panicking over a nightmare, unable to discern that it was only a dream (e.g., T-6.V.2:1-5).

Giving our attention and energy to the order of the workbook lessons, we begin to perceive the light that wakens us and, in time, to perceive that the light is us. As we accept that our egoic thinking only perpetuates anxiety, depression, fear and guilt by virtue of a confused application of the law of cause-and-effect, we naturally make space for a healthier way of thinking, one that allows our natural happiness and love to extend themselves in perpetuity.

On Understanding and Lesson 3 of A Course in Miracles

The third lesson of A Course in Miracles asks us to declare that “I do not understand anything I see . . .” (W-pI.3). I want to say something about this lesson, mostly arising from my own experience of being a course student. Perhaps it will be helpful.

As human beings who are social and whose social communion arises primarily in our languaging, we make meaning and our meaning-making is premised on understanding. At any given moment, our experience “means” something and more than not we “understand” it. If we understood less or less consistently, then there wouldn’t be any experience, personal or otherwise. In a sense, to be bereft of meaning is to no longer be.

This is to say that we don’t have to be taught over and over what the growling in our stomachs is or what will quiet it. Faced with a cliff we turn back rather than leap forward. Every object in our world appears already-named, already-contextualized, already differentiated from the background.

Does this make sense? In a very basic and fundamental way, we are quite functional and this functionality seems to arise from understanding meanings that appear to be pre-given or at least already there. Our experience is always shared (it includes both animate and inanimate others), always meaningful (named, contextualized, differentiated), always anticipatory (there’s a future for which we must provide),and always re-membering (there’s a past which taught us how to handle the present and provide for the future).

But the perceptual and cognitive tools by which this dynamic and vivid experience appears are incomplete. Clearly they do not reveal a whole but rather a sequenced composition of parts necessary to the observer’s continuity. We get what we need. Critically, these perceptual and cognitive tools do not consist of a 1:1 correspondence with some external reality. Your goldfish can’t sleep in your bed, your cat could care less about Emily Dickinson poems, and you can’t persuade a cheetah to go vegetarian. The world is not fixed or pre-given but actively and continually constructed by observers; indeed, the world is its observers.

The upshot of all this as it relates to A Course in Miracles – forgive my long-windedness – and its lessons is that when we encounter words we translate them according to a context of which we are at best only partly aware. This “translating” and this “awareness” (partial or otherwise) are pre-intentional; they just happen. If you think they don’t, take a look at the word “Jesus” and don’t recognize it or attach any personal or historical or theological meaning to it. You can’t. You aren’t built that way.

So, when I began to study A Course in Miracles, I did so intellectually. I read it over and over, read all the secondary material (Wapnick, Singh, Williamson, Renard et cetera) I could get my hands on, took notes, turned those notes into essays and published them, talked with other students and teachers both online and off, correlated ACIM ideas with other spiritual, religious, philosophical and psychological traditions, took positions on contested issues . . .

That kind of study is quintessentially “Seanish.” It’s what this particular “I” does and it’s how this particular “I” does it. More to the point, generally speaking, it’s functional. It works. It’s fun, it’s nurturing, it’s dialogic, it’s sexy (at least I find it sexy when it appears in others so I assume it’s sexy when I do it) . . . so, generally speaking, it’s how living occurs. Not a lot of reflection precedes it. It feels right and natural. It feels given. It’s me being me; I just do it. Why not?

But in saying that, I am implicitly saying something that Claire Petitmengin recognizes as a challenge to clear thinking and communication which in turn complicates – sometimes painfully – our living together as human beings called to bring forth love.

[Since] our cognitive processes are the most personal and intimate things about us, we think we are familiar with them, and cannot imagine for a moment that any particular inner effort should be necessary to become aware of them. . . [Yet] not only do we not know that we do not know . . . we believe that we know.

Is this clear? We don’t know that we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that we believe we know and so we never undertake to learn in a meaningful, transformative way. If we already know, then what is there to learn?

This is a universally human experience, but it can be especially acute in overly-verbose smarty-pants types like myself.

My early experience of the course lessons was shaped by the conviction – largely unseen and unchallenged at that point – that I already knew. The course was not new information so much as a reorganizing of principles and ideas with which I in my scholarship and mental wizardry was already familiar. It wasn’t the cake but the icing and I was already a pretty good baker.

So when the lesson said “I do not understand anything I see,” I assumed I understood what those words meant and cheerfully did the lesson. But that assumption was the very problem the lesson was given to address!

Thus, I was in a very important and consequential way blind to the course even as I “practiced” it.

My awakening as such began when at last I could read that lesson and rather than “do” it as I “understood” and “knew” it, stop and ask: “wait – is it true that I don’t understand anything I see? That can’t be right. Is it right? Oh my God it might be right . . . “

At that juncture, with that question, learning begins because I am no longer specifying the outcome or answer. I am giving attention to the experience without qualifying it. I am not “assigning” meaning but rather seeing what meaning, if any, will naturally arise. I am receptive and open (if trembling and tentative). I am assuming the posture of a student. I am making inquiry from a state of epistemic humility. I don’t know what will happen and I am letting that be okay. If only for a few seconds I am suspending my inclination to know and be certain in order to simply be.

And it turns out this simply being is a process – a form of becoming – that enfolds us into one another and into the world, and the other and the world into us. To the extent we are able to sustain our attention to this process, then our learning as such transitions from a goal-oriented exercise to the lucid tranquility of awareness itself.

Our being – never still, never quiet, never discrete – yields to our becoming, which shapes and alters our being, which yields to our becoming, and so the processual, recursive nature of our experience continues. We are, so to speak, immersed anticipatingly, recursively, becomingly, livingly, that is, enkinaesthetically, with our world (Susan A.J. Stuart).

When I don’t know, and I know that I don’t know, then learning begins. Receptivity and generosity begin. In this beginning this way, I am no longer a teacher. Love is the teacher.

And here is the thing: Love’s classroom scares me. The human classroom intrigues and inspires and excites me but, because Love’s classroom doesn’t give a rat’s ass about scholarship or IQ or effort, it scares the crap out of me.

If Love didn’t scare me, then the course would not be a helpful or necessary corrective, and this public writing (which is in a sense a kind of atonement) would not be necessary either. You are probably here because you, too, are scared of Love, though this fear no doubt shows up – is described – a little differently for you.

Yet here we are, learning what it means to be in love, and how to be in love, which is to say, how to bring forth love, together and apart, for all the world that our living together brings forth. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I am grateful, especially since so much of my living suggests I’m basically not even aware of you, let alone loving you in a way that saves us and our world.

In my experience, A Course in Miracles is not about ending our spiritual search/psychological quest for wholeness/philosophical yearning for Truth in some ultimate or final sense but rather about making a better beginning. It taught me how to be humble and thus open to a way of thinking and being that at times still feels deeply unnatural. And yet.

That is all I mean when I say I have moved on from A Course in Miracles. It ended the foolishness and loneliness of delay which arose from misplaced confidence in personal knowing and shallow insistence on the sufficiency of becoming better. It nudged me gently but surely into a light which, oddly enough, you embody. But – equally oddly – you only embody it as I see it in you. And vice-versa.

Thus, absent you, no me. Absent me, no you. Our shared love – tender and tentative as it may be, dim as it sometimes seems – is literally the light of the world. I saw it the moment I knew I wasn’t seeing it: and you were the one that I saw.

A Course in Miracles Lesson 188

The peace of God is shining in me now.

Lesson 188 of A Course in Miracles is part of a sequence that aims to deepen our commitment to our practice by undoing specific obstacles to that application – casualness, stubbornness, specialness and so forth.

In Not One, Not Two, Francisco Varela points out that we can only experience what corresponds to our organization. We are human! So we cannot experience living and world as ants or maple trees or Beluga whales. We can imagine those beautiful lives and those fascinating worlds but in doing so we are still just human observers. We are still just experiencing what our organization allows, in this case imagination.

But there is a paradox here, says Varela. Somehow, despite our perceptual and cognitive limitations, we are sometimes able to perceive a whole, a nonduality that transcends the personal and subjective – and separative, the dualistic – nature of our own being. How does this happen?

I cannot but take as consistent the fact that socially so many different cultures and individually by so many routes, these leaps of experience can occur and are quite isomorphic . . . I am assuming that mind as the unity of the conversational domain of the biosphere (i.e., mind-at-large, or mind proper) can be experienced, and further, that more or less all of us have experienced it (Varela Not One, Not Two).

Varela appreciated that this kind of thinking – for him located in a scientific, rational and logical domain – was naturally and positively analogous to religious and spiritual thinking. Indeed, his work was often about bridging those two domains in ways that were advantageous to both.

Thus, for me, it is helpful to consider Varela in tandem with A Course in Miracles. The effect is harmonious.

A Course in Miracles points out to its students that a sure way to miss the peace of God is to actively seek the peace of God.

Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now. Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all (W-pI.188.1:2-4).

That is, we already are the peace of God but, in our zeal and ambition for spiritual growth, divine bliss, self-improvement et cetera, we actively overlook that peace. To seek outside the self is to fragment the self, because one already is that which is sought.

The peace of God is shining in you now, and in all living things. In quietness is it acknowledged universally (W-pI.188.5:5-6).

How then shall we come to this quietness? How shall we reach that space in which “honest thoughts, untainted by the dream of worldly things outside yourself, become the holy messengers of God Himself” (W-pI.188.6:6)?

Well, if we are students of A Course in Miracles, we will come to the daily lesson, seasoned by our study of the Text. We come not out of a duty but because it is a gentle and consistent means of opening a sense of the sacred, of making manifest that love that is naturally brought forth in our living.

To spend quiet time with the Course, morning and evening, is essential . . . Reading the course slowly is a holy undertaking . . . To be a serious student of the Course requires integrity, discrimination, and a deep sense of responsibility. But miracles and holy instants will open the way (Tara Singh Nothing Real Can Be Threatened 54).

In this way, our practice of the lesson becomes a prayer that informs our day, a giving of attention that quiets our hyperactive brains and restless bodies.

The peace of God is shining in me now.
Let all things shine upon me in that peace,
And let me bless them with the light in me (W-pI.188.10:6-7).

Notice that the light – the peace of God – in this prayer is reciprocal. It is not only in us but in all things. Notice too that the prayer evokes a responsibility to extend a blessing to all things. Attention is a gift – to us and from us. Attention is the blessing we extend to the world which in turn attends to – and blesses – us.

The shining in your mind reminds the world of what it has forgotten, and the world restores the memory to you as well. From you salvation radiates with gifts beyond all measure, given and returned (W-pI.188.4:1-2).

The mutuality inherent in those lines is not an accident. When seen clearly, it utterly undoes the sense of specialness that pervades our sense of being separate and personal and individual. What appears as discrete and separate is, when perceived and cognized seen in the light of love (the peace of God), remembered as one.

. . . the dual elements become effectively complementary: they mutually specify each other. There is no more duality in the sense that they are effectively related; we can contemplate these dual pairs from a metalevel where they become a cognitive unity, a second-order whole (Varela Not One, Not Two).

I am not suggesting that folks must read Varela or study constructivism or phenomenology, any more than I am suggesting folks ought to become students of A Course in Miracles.

I merely point out a way in which – for me – peace and happiness are revealed in a sustainable and ongoing way. The lesson, as such, lies in accepting the ACIM maxim that “it is we who make the world as we would have it” (W-pI.188.10:3), and the Varelan insight that “a change in experience (being) is as necessary as change in understanding if any suturing of the mind-body dualism is to come about.”

The obstacle to be surmounted in this process is nothing less than the cognitive homeostasis of each of us, the tendency to stick with our interpretation of reality, entrenched and made stable by emotions and body patterns. To work through this veil of attachments, and to see (experience) reality without them is part of the process of unfoldment (Varela Not One, Not Two).

Thus reading, thus writing . . . thus unfolding and infolding . . . and thus the rambling prayers I make in our shared voluble cheerfulness.

Accepting Uncertainty: Practicing ACIM Lesson 61

I want to make an observation related to Lesson 61 of A Course in Miracles. It has to do with the question of the extent to which understanding the course intellectually matters to our practice. I think this lesson is one of the times when the course implicitly suggests that intellectual grasp isn’t so important, that accepting a degree of uncertainty is actually helpful.

Lesson 61 is one of those grandiose moments A Course in Miracles frequently offers its readers. “I am the light of the world.” For a lot of us, we just run with that language because saying it feels good. In course parlance, the ego loves that phrase. “You’re damn right I’m the light of the world. I’m the brightest light there is.”

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rocks scavenged from the brook past the horses, drying on the back porch railing

I do that too, of course. I’m not preaching from some rarefied altar here. It feels good to think about myself as the light of the world. I become very patient and generous and gentle when I think of myself that way. I sort of imagine myself as a cool contemporary Jesus shining his light hither and yon, a New England Christ with horses and pigs and a garden.

We all have some variation of that grandiosity happening in our minds. The problem isn’t that it’s happening, it’s that we don’t notice it’s happening. It can be very subtle. If we aren’t attentive and vigilant, the ego will slip right in under the guise of holiness and appropriate literally everything to serve its own ends. We think we’re too spiritual or psychologically evolved to fall prey to it but that kind of unfounded confidence is the ego.

So Lesson 61 feels like a big ego trap, because its essence is exactly the sort of big idea our ego loves to take for a spin. The key to noticing this happening is the good feeling it gives us, and the subtle way that we interpret “feeling good” as spiritual. It’s helpful to notice that happening and then question it. How sure are we that we really and truly know what’s going on here?

The thing is, that level of “feeling good,” and the positive effects that flow from it – gentleness, patience, generosity, et cetera – , are temporary and not very durable. They’re temporary because they pass. And they’re not durable because, in addition to being temporary, they get rattled far too easily. Somebody’s mean or needy or an unexpected demand is made on my time and . . . bam! So long light of the world. Hello darkness, my old friend (to quote an old and dear guide).

In Lesson 61 the course is pointing to something that does not pass and cannot be rattled or undone and so delivers a lasting and sustainable peace and happiness.

But in order to begin to get all that, we have to get out of the way. We have to perceive the ego’s move to take over our experience of Lesson 61 and actually actively stop it.

The course actually warns us that the ego is going to make this kind of move. It says that the phrase “I am the light of the world” is a simple statement about what we are and not “a statement of pride, of arrogance, or of self-deception.”

It does not describe the self-concept you have made. It does not refer to any of the characteristics with which you have endowed your idols (W-pI.61.1:3-5).

Those qualifications are incredibly important. That’s why they’re right there at the beginning of the lesson. They are flashing yellow lights telling us to slow down and check ourselves, to see where our attention is, to make sure we’re not getting carried away with delusions of ourselves as worldly saviors whose holiness elevates use above the hoi polloi.

One way to do that in our practice of A Course in Miracles is to read the text and workbook closely, and really inquire as to our understanding. This is not a paradox! I am not suggesting that intellectual understanding trumps practice. I am simply suggesting that close reading is a way of staying close to the course. I am saying this proximity ultimately strengthens and enriches our experience as learners.

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Opening a little space for the horses, shade into which to extend their pasture, and trails on which to wander . . . an ongoing project, a kind of therapy, a meeting place of minds . . .

For examples, in those sentences I just cited (W-pI.61.1:3-5), the course is asking if we are truly clear about the distinction between self and self-concept. Are you?

It asks if we are clear-eyed about our idols and the qualities by which we make them our idols – the historical Jesus, the westernized Buddha, the affluence and influence of Eckhart Tolle and other contemporary spiritual teachers. Are you?

For most of us, the answer is some variation of “not really.” Sometimes we’re clear and sometimes we’re fuzzy. Sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t. That’s why we’re here – working our way through learning what it means to be one-without-another et cetera.

Thus, when we do this lesson, it is actually not a bad idea to do it with uncertainty. Just be in the space of not fully understanding what it means to be “the light of world.” Be in the space of knowing how easily and frequently we turn this sort of thing into a hymn to our specialness. Be confused and unskilled. Be a beginner.

And then see what happens, right? Just see what happens. Do what the lesson asks, trying mightily to be honest and stay out of the way. You might imagine Jesus saying, “yes, yes – that’s it – get to where you don’t know anything and see what happens.”

What happens?

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a little space in the side yard to write, to sit quietly, to stargaze at night, to drink coffee when the sun rises

I don’t know what happens for you, other than that as you look closely at what obscures the light of the world in you, the more clearly that light will shine. We don’t need to do anything other than look at the impediments. The light is there; you don’t have to find it, turn it on, replace the bulb or anything.

You just need to look at what makes looking hard, and then let what happens happen. And things will happen! And, generally speaking, they will be things that make you happy in the sense of being gentle and peaceful in sustainable ways, and in touch with a sense of meaning to your life that cannot be shaken.

Love Does Not Compare: ACIM Daily Lesson 195

Let us pause for a moment and think of those with whom we compare ourselves. I mean literally search our thoughts and find those individuals (or groups even), and maybe even do a little comparing right now.

Aren’t these folks easy to find? Easy to objectify? Easy to envy or scorn? Those who are less patient, less diligent in their scholarship, less attentive to food security? Those who are richer, thinner, or can run farther faster? Those who panic when faced with a crowd and those who can’t shut up and share the stage?

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dawn in the hayloft, light hinting red

It is helpful to see this rogues gallery and to acknowledge its existence. We made it. Its halls are worn bare because we visit so often and so faithfully.

Lesson 195 of A Course in Miracles is ostensibly about gratitude, but it yokes this core concept to our tendency to compare ourselves to others and find them – or us – wanting. Comparison, it turns out, is not a recipe for inner peace.

You do not offer God your gratitude because your brother is more slave than you, nor could you sanely be enraged if he seems freer. Love makes no comparisons. And gratitude can only be sincere if it be joined to love (W-pI.195.4:1-3).

Love makes no comparisons . . .

We have to stay with that phrase for a moment because it is so utterly beautiful and also so mind-numbingly ridiculous.

Doesn’t that phrase feel electric in your brain? “Love makes no comparisons,” “Love does not compare . . . ” Doesn’t it resonate when uttered as if the very angels of Heaven were harmonizing along with you?

And truly, don’t you feel a little self-righteous saying it? I do. Like how cool is it that we are the ones who know that love makes no comparisons . . .

But look. As human observers, we make comparisons. We live by them. We compare foods, find some nutritious and others a chemical abomination, and then eat accordingly. We have to go on a long drive and opt for a Bob Dylan playlist, not Techno, because we want to be happy and relaxed on our drive, not jaw-grinding insane.

Or we love someone – we hold them, kiss them, watch over their rest, catch our breath when they smile – because we’ve been around, we’ve seen the options – and this someone is the best someone. They’re good to us, they make us laugh. They know when we need a little extra attention and when we have to be alone. Not just anybody can be this somebody!

You cannot not make comparisons. Okay? You really have to see this! You have to see how comparing actually inheres in your body, in your thoughts, and in the language you use. Comparison is you; it’s as much you as anything else you’d like to say is you.

We have to see it that way because if we don’t, then the utter ridiculousness of the lesson – upon which its helpfulness is predicated – won’t be clear. You see? You are being told to adopt as a practice something that you literally cannot do. It isn’t fair. It’s masochistic.

So what do we do?

Lesson 195 advises us to let our gratitude make room for “the sick, the weak, the needy and afraid, and those who mourn a seeming loss and those who feel apparent pain, who suffer cold or hunger, or who walk the way of hatred and pain of death” (W-pI.195.5:2).

All these go with you. Let us not compare ourselves with them, for thus we split them off from our awareness of the unity we share with them, as they must share with us (W-pI.195.5:3-4).

Do you see what happened there? We – you and I, of all people – got thrown in with “the sick, the weak, the needy and afraid, and those who mourn a seeming loss and those who feel apparent pain, who suffer cold or hunger, or who walk the way of hatred and pain of death.”

It’s not a mistake. It’s a fact of our shared unity. If you are honest, can’t you see yourself somewhere in that list? It’s not a description of others – it’s a description of our own living.

Comparison only makes logical sense if there are at least two things. I can compare my right hand to my left hand, but not my right hand to my right hand. I can compare the maple tree out front to the maple tree out back, but I can’t compare the maple tree out front to the maple tree out front.

What is one and thus the same cannot be compared to itself.

We thank our Father for one thing alone; that we are separate from no living thing, and therefore one with Him. And we rejoice that no exceptions can ever be made which would reduce our wholeness . . . We give thanks for every living thing, for otherwise we offer thanks for nothing . . . (W-pI.195.6:1-3).

Sure, you say. We are one. But it feels and seems and appears like we’re separate . . .

Yes. I hear that. It is an important insight. And really, to pretend otherwise is vain and pretentious. And we are past that now. We don’t wake to fake awakening or act out fantasies of nonduality or pretend we’re in an intimate 1:1 correspondence with Jesus, Yahweh, and the Buddha.

It’s good to be clear that we are having a dualistic experience. It’s good to remember that we are not alone in saying it. And it’s good – it’s more than good, actually – to give close attention to what the course asks of us next in the lesson.

Then let our brothers lean their tired heads against our shoulders as they rest a while. We offer thanks for them. For if we can direct them to the peace that we would find, the way is opening at last to us (W-pI.195.7:1-3).

Please see the clarity of that last sentence: it does not say that peace that we have or know or are. It says the peace we are still looking for. It refers to the peace we haven’t found. It envisions a future state that is not this present state.

You see? The course is recognizing that we aren’t there yet. We don’t get it yet. And it is no big deal. The sky isn’t falling, pits aren’t opening, and lions aren’t laying down with lambs.

So we can relax and get on with the other two sentences in that passage. We give thanks (sentence two) and then help our brothers and sisters rest (sentence one). We put the metaphysics and intellectualizing aside and actually help our brothers and sisters.

And isn’t that the part we all want to skip? It’s so much sexier to read Francisco Varela and Emily Dickinson, write Japanese short form poetry, see who liked our last post and who retweeted our last tweets.

Who wants to go donate a few hours at the local food pantry? Who wants to walk around the crappy parts of town and hand out coffees or blankets or bologna sandwiches? Who wants to visit a nursing home and read to someone who never gets visitors? Who wants to knock on doors for signatures for a bill that would ban pesticides that are harmful to bees? Who wants to do the dishes even though it’s not your night to do the dishes?

Tara Singh is my ACIM teacher because he brought the course out of the clouds. He ended the distractions of mysticism, psychic powers, ascended masters; really, he ended the ideal of special experiences altogether. He taught me that the earth is my home, not the sky. He taught me to garden and gaze dreamily at the stars, to enact local service and to go off to a quiet place to pray, to study critical texts and clean the bathroom.

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my shadow gesturing at blurred prisms on the hayloft’s western wall

Lesson 195 never says this but it should: Act in the world with your body. Act in a way that helps other people. When you do this, the love and peace from which you still feel alienated, and the oneness that remains true even though you can’t really see it yet, will be revealed.

An ancient door is swinging free again; a long forgotten Word re-echoes in our memory, and gathers clarity as we are willing once again to clear . . . Walk then in gratitude the way of love (W-pI.7:4, 8:1).

So don’t sweat the comparisons. Let them come, let them go. Don’t sweat the impossible. Don’t try and mentally work out what it would mean to be beyond all that. If it’s your job to understand and help others understand, then that will happen. But right now – and perhaps for a long time to come – our job is to love one another, to help one another.

We are the lost and forsaken. We are the lost sheep. But it’s okay! Don’t look for home, don’t complain about how unfair life is, don’t lament your fate. Rather, with clear eyes, gaze about and see the widow, the orphan, the soldier, the prisoner, the refugee, the hungry, the frail, the abandoned, the hopeless . . .

They are here: help them. In simple nondramatic ways, be of service. See what happens next.