Homesteading and ACIM

I would like to write about my experience of homesteading – raising one’s own food and the relationships that entails – and how it relates to what A Course in Miracles calls the “Happy Dream.”

Pictures are just random, “around the place and around our lives” kind of thing.

Chrisoula and I have constructed over the years a homesteading practice by which we raise and grow a lot of our own food, and network with local farmers and fellow homesteaders for as much of the balance as possible. This is a process which we are always learning how to do better. It is local but its effects are far-reaching. It allows us to live in ways that do the most good, as we understand it.

Here is how I frame this, as a student of A Course in Miracles: our job is to be helpful, and helpfulness has a specific form.

God knows what His son needs before he asks. He is not at all concerned with form, but having given the content it is His Will that it be understood. And that suffices. The form adapts itself to need; the content is unchanging, as eternal as its Creator (C-3.3:2-5).

For Chrisoula and I, the form was – is – homesteading. Living that way fully and without reservation allows us to focus less on impersonal transactions and more on communication, coordination and cooperation which, together, allow for a community of personal relationships with our brothers and sisters which, in turn, become the outpouring and inswelling of the Atonement.

. . . the one responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself. The teacher of God is a miracle worker because he gives the gifts he has received. Yet he must first accept them. He need do no more, nor is there more that he could do. By accepting healing he can give it (M-7.3:2-6).

In formal terms, we buy beef from local farmers, raise pigs and chickens to slaughter, buy weekly staples (corn meal, rice, beans) from local farmers, etc. We make our on yogurt and granola and bake our own bread. Most of the rest of our food we buy from cooperatives where we are members, buying in bulk.

Not everyone can do this! We understand that. No suggestion is made that the form our living takes should be the form another’s living takes. That would be boring and unhelpful. Indeed, if another’s living doesn’t take the form of managing a food co-op, say, then our own living would be impoverished.

You have a role to play in the Atonement which I will dictate to you. Ask me which miracles you should perform (T-1.III.4:2-3).

So it is a question of giving care-filled attention to one’s living, and seeing where in it there is room to be as kind and helpful to others as possible. Building a network of local farmers and homesteaders, supporting them, becoming one with them, relieves pressure on global/national economies and allows us to relate differently to the people and the earth around us. But it’s not just – or even only – political or economic.

For example, when we work in the garden and with the animals, we are surrounded by wild birds – turkey vultures, bald eagles, crows, ravens, cardinals, grackles, chickadees, barn swallows, cowbirds, blue jays, blue birds, orioles, juncos, tufted titmice and more. Our work quiets the incessant mental chatter (always notice what naturally silences ego), and so we become aware of the birds not as an adjunct to human experience – pretty details, like bangles on a scarf – but as experience itself. To the birds, we are the adjunct. We are the side show. When the perspective shifts in this way and one is no longer better or more special or privileged than a crow . . .

That is when the work and the living merge to become a sweetness and a gentle lesson, a shared presence that appears in bodies but transcends them in an ongoing blessing from the Lord. This is the Happy Dream – unearned and unmerited, accomplished in but not by us.

Your part is only to offer [the Holy Spirit] a little willingness to let Him remove all fear and hatred, and to be forgiven. On your little faith, joined with His understanding, He will build your part in the Atonement and make sure that you fulfill it easily. And with Him, you will build a ladder planted in the solid rock of faith, and rising even to Heaven. Nor will you use it to ascend to Heaven alone (T-18.V.2:5-8).

Nor does this gift of Atonement end but rather goes on undoing the self-centeredness that impairs awareness of love: here are the worms in the compost, here is kale in the garden, sprouting after a long winter, there are the ground hogs, there are the bees, here are the farmers, there are the neighbors . . .

So as we work to help our brothers and sisters – by being more self-reliant and productive – we are given a simpler and lovelier experience of being in the world. Our interests are not separate from the world, and the world’s interests are not separate from our own. Experience widens; everything is included. The center, as such, is everywhere.

Students of A Course in Miracles are apt to get hung up on “there is no world” (W-pI.132.6:2) and “I am not a body” (W-pI.199.8:7). These are important aspects of the course, not to be ignored. But the course is also clear that it exists within the ego’s framework (C-in.3:1). It is a tool of the world by which we might begin to perceive in a new and helpful way what self and world actually are.

This “new” perception is already inherent in us, but we have forgotten it, and so we need help remembering. A Course in Miracles is our help. It helps us – in these bodies in this world – undo our reliance on and confusion about bodies and worlds.

The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance (In.1:6-7).

Thus, it is not by grasping complex metaphysics that we are saved. It is through a new experience of peace which arises through knowing that we are not separate from one another – where “other” includes birds, worms, flowers, mountains, galaxies and so forth. “Knowing” is an experience and not subject to doubt, which is what separates it from perception.

For example, we perceive the moon as a two-dimensional disc circling the earth. This perception is unreliable – the moon is not a two-dimensional and it doesn’t circle the earth. But we know the seeing of it. The seeing is the knowing. What it is, we maybe can’t say, but that it is, we know prior to language or any other condition.

So sometimes it is helpful to ask what do I perceive? What do I know?

Knowing is easy to overlook because it’s not a problem and it doesn’t raise any questions. It just is. We are so accustomed to solving problems and answering questions that we’ve lost our ability to rest gently in that which provokes no disturbances and begs no fixing.

What do I know? This. This this. What else could I know?

Lean into your living because by doing so you can love more and learn more about love. I mean that. Don’t do it because of what you want to get in exchange – insights, spiritual ecstasy, less stress, a better body, sacred sex and all that. Want is of the ego, always. Our job is to just see past its wants by not getting worked up about them. Don’t fight, don’t fix, don’t fidget. Just look for ways to be helpful, respond in the way it is given to you to respond, and then see what happens.

A lot of seemingly big questions float through the brain: who am I? What am I? What is the nature of reality? How will I know? And so forth.

I used to say that these questions are “fun and interesting” but lately I am not so sure. Lately I begin to see that they are more like enticing distractions, cookies for starved seekers who actually need bread, rice, apples and tea. Eschew empty calories; attend the Divine Feast.

For truly the Heavenly Meal is already given, already laid out before us. We don’t see it because of what we place before it: a heavy veil of activity, problems, history, theology, philosophy, psychology, et cetera. But veils are made to be drawn aside; they are allowed to flutter to the floor. Veils hide and entice but – and this is important – for us, “hiding” and “enticing” are the veil.

We are the ones called now to see beyond this veil – this play of what hides and entices, this dance of perception and knowledge – to the Face of Christ, the Love of God, the Hearth Fires of the Great Mother and her quiet Help-Meet, our Father. Shall we, you and I, together as one, offer ourselves to a world in crisis, to learn once and for all that there is no world – nor even you and I – but only love?


  1. Hi Sean, I was interested in your view of the happy dream. From my understanding Viktor Frankl was experiencing a happy dream while in Auschwitz, which reminds us it’s never form, but content as your course quote states above. So if everything disappeared and all the violets were gone, the neighbors turned cross, the horse runs away, the happy dream would remain.

    1. Thank you, Marisa. I appreciate this comment very much.

      I have not read Frankl’s work in a long time (though a lot of the constructivists I read religiously are very devoted to him); my recollection is that he asserted that so long as a human being can find meaning in their existence then no matter how grim that existence becomes (even unto a holocaust), they will be able to endure/survive and even overcome it. And he developed and/or refined a number of techniques to facilitate this meaning-making.

      I think this is a welcome psychology which can be helpfully integrated into traditional Abrahamic monotheism, but falls shy of the radicalism proposed by ACIM, where our happiness arises by our willingness to learn how to disregard the perception of external differences and thus release judgment (broadly speaking, the Course’s teaching of forgiveness).

      But that is distinction between awakening – by which separation ends (perception replaced by knowledge) – and the happy dream, which is grounded in the world and in the body. It’s a fiction, but it’s a helpful fiction.

      I would be sad if our horses ran away – and I would be worried for the disabled one. If my neighbor was cross, I would try to understand why, and respond in ways to ameliorate hurt feelings. My Course practice teaches me to give careful attention to the feelings that arise, and to share them with the Holy Spirit, and to be guided – in the body in the world – to responding to them in healing, rather than hurtful, ways.

      I am a body living in the world; the spiritual work is not to pretend otherwise. Only when I except that I CANNOT discern between truth and illusion, can I become sufficiently teachable to learn the distinction, and bring it into application.

      The form/content distinction – which Ken Wapnick worked so hard to bring forward in our shared understanding of the course, and for which I am very grateful – has always felt unduly academic to me, and makes it harder to just, you know, love the horses and not feel subtly guilty about it.

      Part of the reason I embraced Tara Singh’s teaching the way I did was that the way in which it leaned into the world and the body, giving it – somewhat akin to Frankl – a meaning and a function. However, on both those views, the emphasis remains on form – I am happy BECAUSE of external circumstances, or I’m happy DESPITE external circumstances.

      I think the line I am drawing here is VERY fine; in a fundamental way, I agree with you. Happiness cannot be contingent on external circumstances – but so long as we remain aware of those circumstances, then we have to respond to them somehow. Frankl sought meaning – a very helpful response to the twentieth century’s grim fliration with nihilism. The Course adopts a quasi-Vedantic belief system in the guise of Christianity. Both can work, but in order for them to work, we have to accept the lived experience in which they arise and appear.

      That is, we have to allow the form to become a symbol of the content – we have to consent to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our understanding of form (appearance) so that it reflects Love. Only then can we begin to accept the content – which always begins, and can go on for a long time, manifesting as a formal way fo living like, say, homesteading. THIS is how dreams of fear are translated to dreams of Love, which clears the ground for awakening (the undoing of differences altogether).

      Thank you again for a very helpful question, and for encouraging me to think more carefully about these questions. I am grateful. If you are ever in my neck of the woods, stop by. We can have a coffee, pat the horses, and you can teach me more about Frankl πŸ™πŸ™


        1. Hi Jenn,

          I mean, I think ACIM IS the specific path πŸ™‚

          To the extent that my study and practice is informed by teachers, the only real teacher is Tara Singh, though he was deceased by the time I became aware of him. Singh, for me, most helpful integrates the Course emphasis on miracles as practical applications of bodies in the wrold, in order to bring forth a Happy Dream in which awakening becomes not only possible but inevitable.

          Singh is also the teacher, in my view, most closely aligned with the Course’s Vedantic underpinnings – I read him as an extension of Abhishiktananda, a Christian monk who studied with Ramana Maharshi, and whose practice was mutually informed by the Advaita Vedanta and Catholic monotheism.

          I have read Wapnick very closely, and briefly corresponded with him near the end of his life. I don’t think of him as MY teacher, but he has certainly had a deep and lasting impact on my understanding of the Course.

          COA, David Hoffmeister, etc . . . I am aware of these folks but don’t study or follow them at all. I’m glad that they’re here; I know they are helpful for a lot of students. It takes a village πŸ™‚

          I want to add that Catholic Worker values and ideals – and their application – are also integral to my spiritual practice of ACIM, part of the reason that Singh resonated so deeply for me, notwithstanding the various challenges he raises.

          I wrote about my teachers here and here.

          Thanks, Jenn. Hope all is well,



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