Hands to Work, Hearts to God

I say not that the body is real or unreal, but that I am not a body, and so the body as such is not really my concern. But what am I then? What is my concern?

This is an old question which is amenable to many different answers. If you are reading this, it is likely that A Course in Miracles is a significant aspect of how you go about answering it. Certainly it was – is – for me.

peas
snow settles in the garden where only days ago we planted spinach and peas in sunlight under the watchful eyes of horses and crows . . .

Here is our answer: we are Creations of a just and loving God, in Whom there is no perception and so no differences and so no separation. We are extensions of God, abstract ongoing expressions of Love, utterly alike, utterly one with what extends.

And yet we have forgotten this, and have forgotten we forgot, and so we experience fear and guilt, and the world is broken, and we are without hope of a better way.

A Course in Miracles has a whole mythology around how this apparent separation and resultant grief occurred. At some point, we all want the structural comfort of a story. But stories are just pointers. They point not to themselves but to something vivid and alive.

The lovely thing about A Course in Miracles – what gently distinguishes it from most other Christian practices – is that no story is actually necessary. If we want, when we are ready, we can remember our fundamental Oneness with the Lord right now, and so never feel guilt or fear again.

That is because there is only one mistake, and so there is only one correction. There is only one problem, and so only one solution (e.g., W-pI.80.1:5). The appearance of many mistakes and problems is a distraction; we don’t have to fall for the illusion of multiplicity.

It is given us to see that the one mistake is to believe that we are separate from God. The one problem is believe that this separation is real and has real consequences.

Both instances are healed in the same way: we see that the beliefs are errors. We are one with God. When we see the belief that we are separate as a mistake, then the truth of oneness dawns on us, because it is always dawning on us. It is us.

last year’s collard greens already sprouting anew, vivid symbols that life is ongoing and sustainable, and that we too can be so reliable and tenacious and generous . . .

Hence the popular metaphor of veils (e.g. T-12.I.9:11, T-20.V.7:6). We see as through a veil – draw back the veil and see with utter clarity the real world. We cannot see the Beloved’s face – draw back the veil obscuring it and behold with utter clarity the kind and loving gaze of Christ. And so forth.

Veils are easy to move. However, believing that we are allowed to move them is another thing. Perhaps we are scared of what we will see. Perhaps we are scared of being seen. Perhaps we are scared of violating some rule or law or tradition that says don’t touch the veil. Never touch the veil.

But we put the veil up. We invented every law, tradition, story and concept surrounding veils. We are the one saying “don’t touch the veil that I’ve put up.”

So we can draw aside the veil as well.

It is healing to remember that we are not separate from God, and this healing does not occur in parts or by degrees. The veil is drawn or not. A juncture comes in our practice where this becomes painfully obvious. We are doing this to ourselves (T-27.VIII.10:1).

Yet if it’s so easy, then why not just do it? Why the big production – a massive and often overly-wrought Text, a slim and often vague Manual for Teachers, 365 lessons, this teacher and that teacher and conflicts and choices and . . .

Why?

the empty flower garden opposite the chicken pen. In a few weeks it will begin to flower, loud with bees and bright with sun and blossoms . . .

Well, because the one for whom it is easy is hidden and so doesn’t get to calmly go forth and reclaim its Home in God. In its place is an imposter whose entire existence is predicated upon fear and difficulty. We are Children of Love whose power is such that we can pretend – and even actually believe – that we are children of fear, chaos, lawlessness and death.

But this imposter – this confused, alienated and terrified child – which A Course in Miracles calls the ego – is simply another veil. We hold it with both hands before the Face of Christ; release it and it will fade to nothing before it reaches the floor. Release it and forget it ever existed because in the Loving Gaze of Christ all we will remember is what we are and that memory becomes an invitation to God to draw us back into seamless, endlessly creative Love.

“But it’s hard.” Or, “I don’t understand how to let go.” Or “isn’t it all just words?”

Well, yes. Sure. But can we at least be willing to learn that those complaints and others like them are forms of resistance which arise solely from the one who does not want us to remember God? Scared and lost kids who think they’re responsible for their own safety will say a lot of stuff. We don’t have to listen.

Indeed, it’s better not to listen. We are allowed to gently shush that child, and let them know that we are taking the reins. They can breathe. We got this.

When we learn this – when we take the reins – then we naturally reject the complaints and distractions offered by the childish ego. We quietly say, “no thanks. Not today.”

an old wooden jar beyond the pasture . . . nothing is ever actually ruined, nothing is ever actually empty . . .

For a little while, we might still wait for something to take the place of the ego’s yammering. We might subtly believe it’s our job to replace the ego’s voice with a wiser voice, a smarter voice, a more miracle-minded voice.

It’s not.

Our job is to let go in favor of Jesus and God and that’s it. That’s the work. Game over.

This takes the form of saying politely but firmly “no thanks” to any voice that insists 1) we are yoked in any way to the body’s adventures and misadventures and b) that God is mysterious, complex, inaccessible, remote or in any way apart or other than us.

Just keep saying “no thanks.” And gradually the voices testifying to our weakness and incompetence and valuelessness will subside. And what takes their place is what was always there, forgotten but not disturbed, nor compromised in any way: the Love and Peace of God. And we will know – not think, not believe, not perceive but know – that we are the Peace of God; we are the Love of God.

“Neti, neti” as our brothers and sisters say in a related tradition. Not this, not that – only Love. Thus, be not disturbed by the many veils then for there is only one. Be not disturbed by the many reasons not to see this veil or interact with this veil or draw aside this veil.

Our fear is unjustified because God is just and we are God’s Creation. Love is our shared Home; there is nothing else to learn, and nowhere else to go.

. . . writing in early April, Good Friday, in a world that is falling apart, in which we must learn yet again how to be each other’s savior. Snow falls, turns to rain, then back to snow. We hunker against a hard wind blowing through the valley as we feed the horses and chickens, check on recently-planted spinach and peas, the wintering-over collard greens. Though you are not here, you are here, and my thoughts turn to you constantly. How can I tell you how grateful I am for your patience with my slow learning? Your willingness to play along with my teacherly posturing? God and the Love of God and Christ in Whom the Love of God is made manifest only arise for me because you consent to see them in me. How else could I possibly remember them? In this way, your reading is an act of Love, service unto a brother yet struggling to put it all together. “Hands to work, Hearts to God,” taught one of my older sisters. She also taught that “God is love, and if you love God you will love one another.” So we gather yet again – here in the garden, here in the text, here in the prayer – constructing again a living altar unto Love.

4 thoughts on “Hands to Work, Hearts to God”

  1. Your old wooden jar caught me as I was scrolling back up to the top. I had an exquisite aquarium plant that I tried to save as I went to thoroughly clean/rearrange them. It disintegrated within days (hoping still for its runners to resurrect!). As the one problem repeats itself for me in this one particualr grieving (every time I pass by it), the feelings I “try” to allow and validate are helped to do just that (and alleviated in a comparative way) by “the one problem” recognition. And in your including that little cast aside jar with the rest of your post, I’m able to glimpse a little more the grace of my plant instead, including the exquisite agony of seeing it rot away, through its gift of impermance. It reminds me of how we connected over your post about Boston, how present love weaves our imagined past personal trails through life into an ever present abiltiy to commune-icate with them. And your beautiful Indra’s Net of words re-represent any ego concept of there being a veil with such grace, at least as can be testified by/as this jewel of the Net’s capturing of it. Like you say, the i can’t do it without its you. Thanks for exposing your beauty.

    1. The jar is the work of a previous “owner” who had a real gift for woodwork, but threw a lot away. I found this near the river behind the horse pasture and fell in love with it. Some of his “bowls in progress” function as Buddhas out back (stacked on the tree stumps he collected). Somehow it reminds me of how the One is always assuming this or that form, without ever not being One, and how this “assuming” is loving and generous.

      wooden_Buddha

      Anyway, it’s nice to hear from you Mike. I love aquariums, though the fish in mine never survived, so I have had to let that gift pass in my life. Aquariums are in the prism family in my wierd cosmology and so God just pours through them like a river in perennial Spring spate. Anything glassy and colorful will hold my attention forever. I’m a sucker for what’s pretty.

      On which note, thank you for reading my babbling and finding something lovely in it which “I” didn’t know was there until “you” brought it forth. It’s Boston all the way down 🙂

      Love,
      Sean

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