Why do we study A Course in Miracles?
I think this is a good question, one that perhaps should be asked from time to time. What is the point of our effort and our diligence and our commitment? In the text, Jesus promises that “[n]othing survives its purpose (T-29.VI.3:1).” We can only go so far as we are willing to go. We cannot do more than we set out to do.
So what is it we are doing?
Since accepting – embracing, really, with both hands and a starving heart – the course as my spiritual path, my life has changed. I smile more. I am more relaxed, less susceptible to the ups and downs of life in the world. I am more patient with myself and others. I am both less defensive and less aggressive.
I’m not perfect in any of this, of course, but the difference is tangible. It is noticeable. I am grateful for it.
But is that what I really want? To be a nicer guy? A more spiritual guy? A kinder and gentler teacher – of writing, of reading, of practicing ACIM?
We have to be careful about settling. We have to be careful about becoming invested in external improvements. They’re nice, of course, but they are still just part of the dream. Jesus cautions us against becoming comfortable, of declaring ownership of some parts of the dream, as if enlightenment were a buffet.
The choice is not between which dreams to keep, but only if you want to live in dreams or awaken from them . . . You cannot dream some dreams and wake from some, for you are either sleeping or awake. And dreaming goes with only one of these (T-29.IV.1:5, 7-8).
And remember, too, that all dreams – regardless of their form, their apparent quality – begin in hate and fear (T-29.V.7:4).
It is waking that liberates us once and for all.
Well, the other morning I woke early to walk the dog. It was a few minutes to four and the wind was howling and the rain was spraying in silvery sheets. Branches whistled falling out of trees. The dog kept looking at me like, “really?” So we turned back. I didn’t want to but it was okay.
When I got home, I went downstairs to check the sump pump. And the sump pump was busted. And our basement was flooded. Water was spewing from the foundation walls, gushing up through floor cracks. I raced upstairs and woke Chrisoula. For half an hour or so we frantically pumped and bucketed. Then we gave up. It was coming in faster than we could get rid of it. We started to carry stuff upstairs – books, games, photographs, musical instruments. The kids came out of their bedrooms bleary-eyed to help. It was cold and wet. It was unsettling.
And with all of it I was okay. That was supposed to be my time for prayer and meditation, for silence and solitude, but I was okay. I wasn’t acting like a jerk. I wasn’t whining out loud or complaining to God inside. I paid attention to the kids to be sure they were safe and understood that it was all going to be fine. I kept perspective about what needed to be saved and what could be left to soak. Chrisoula stopped to make me coffee. Sophia asked if there any Course in Miracles books I needed to carry up.
There was a lot to love and be thankful for, not the least of which was that ten years or so ago I would have been a one-man emotional wrecking crew.
And then, out in the windy rain, tossing another bucket of dirty water onto the sodden lawn, I heard with simple clarity: “no. You are giving yourself too much credit. This isn’t what the course is about. It wants you to go even deeper than nice. It wants a transformation even more profound. Keep going!”
I felt shaken by that. It’s not enough to be a sweetheart? To chuckle in the face of all this water and property damage?
We have to decide: are we here to get better at this part of the dream or do we want to wake up from dreaming altogether? The course does not equivocate. When it urges us not to seek outside ourself (T-29.VII.1:1), it means it literally. Heaven is not a better approach to flooded basements. That’s just the happier form of the dream from which we are trying to awaken. We can see it – take note of it – and then keep going.
In his book Remembering God in Everything You See, Tara Singh notes that it is not enough to have an improved personality, a winsome approach to parenting, a chipper attitude when face-to-face with adversity. All that is personal. It is of the self. We have to go past it to what is impersonal.
Impersonal Life alone has the energy,
the direct contact,
and the resources to cope with any situation.
I think this is what it means to be able to say authentically “[t]here is no peace except the peace of God (W-pI.200).
It’s no small potatoes to be a good companion to those around you. If the basement needs to be dealt with, then deal with it. When it’s time to cook dinner, cook dinner. But there is more than just a happier, more grounded life in the world. And it is that to which the course calls us. I am grateful that I am becoming a kinder, more thoughtful and gentler man but I am bent like madness on Heaven.
Emily Dickinson said that she wasn’t getting to Heaven but rather “going all the time.”
Not going when the external world was perfect and benevolent but all the time. Not going when the house is dark and quiet and the angels do gymnastics while I pray but all time time.
Now is there silence. Seek no further. You have come to where the road is carpeted with leaves of false desires, fallen from the trees of hopelessness you sought before. Now are they underfoot. And you look up and on toward Heaven, with body’s eyes but serving an instant longer now. Peace is already recognized at last, and you can feel its soft embrace surround your heart and mind with comfort and with love (W-pI.200.10:1-6).
So the seeker becomes a finder and the finder learns that what he sought was forever given and always at hand. The waters rose and then they receded. Such is the nature of floods. Some of our stuff is lost; some of it is just dandy. Such is the nature of stuff.
And beyond all of that – beyond me writing and you reading even – is the light of Heaven itself, bright as a star and as near as our noses. More and more, we’re going there all the time.