We might reframe ACIM Daily Lesson 23 this way: if you want to know peace, then give up projection. Indeed, in a sense, this lesson encapsulates the whole function and thus our whole practice of A Course in Miracles.
There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.W-pI.23.2:2-7
This is one of the clearest statements regarding a fundamental course paradigm: give attention to your thinking rather than to the world. Or, to put it another way, the only problem we really have is that we think we have problems (T-26.II.3:3). Change the way you think, and the self and world you perceive will change as well.
Of course, if giving up projection were easy – or even intuitive – then we wouldn’t need A Course in Miracles. Or therapy or Buddhism. Or hugs. The course is given so that we might begin to work with our thoughts in order to change how we see the world and – through that evolving shift in perception – remember our identity in and as love.
Thus, lesson 23 is a firm step in the direction of reforming our understanding of what we are in truth. It is an invitation to shift our sense of identity from “victim of the world we see” to “the image-maker itself” (W-pI.23.4:1).
It is also a promise that as we do learn that we are making the world, and accept responsibility accordingly, that nothing will actually be lost when we let that world go. This addresses a significant fear for many of us – does awakening mean I won’t see my kids? Or listen to Leonard Cohen songs? Or dip french fries in mayo?
Vision already holds a replacement for everything you think you see now. Loveliness can light your images, and so transform them that you will love them, even though they were made of hate. For you will not be making them alone.W-pI.23.4:4-6
As I have pointed out many times, a point comes in our learning where we realize that we are trapped – the self is an illusion that cannot save itself, and the world offers no path that can save us either. So long as we believe in that self and that world, then the “trap” retains its stranglehold on us.
Lesson 23 – again, encapsulating a fundamental principle of A Course in Miracles – makes the case that this “trap” can be escaped by seeing that it is an illusion. It isn’t real. There is nothing to escape. But how do we see this? How do we, you know . . . actually make it happen?
This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process (identification and letting go) require your cooperation. The final one (replacement) does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so (parenthetical emphasis mine).W-pI.23.5:2-6
Thus, we want to see in a clear and sustainable way how we project attack thoughts outward and thus create a world of scarcity and violence, one in which peace is a fleeting sensation and love never welcome.
We want to see that we are the author of our suffering and – because we not want to suffer – let go of the impulse to project.
That’s it – that’s our whole job.
Lesson 23 is basic. All we are doing is noticing our attack thoughts (so-and-so is always judging me, I should eat healthier, why don’t people stop driving fossil-fuel powered cars, my mother never loved me, why can’t the news be positive et cetera). And then – for each one – we remind ourselves that if we will let this thought go, then we will remember the peace that is already given.
Noticing is hard! It takes practice to see in a consistent way how our minds project and how projection is always an attack.
But the truth is, letting go is even harder. Ego is happy to be noticed; it doesn’t object to that. It will lose that battle in order to keep fighting. And where it really resists is letting go.
Giving up attack thoughts feels like losing our self and our world. It feels like a form of sacrifice. We identify with the world that is made of attack; we are familiar with a self driven by vengeance.
So Lesson 23 is like a first step in mind-training. It’s like being taught how to stretch properly before being taught how to run a marathon. We want to run already, want to cross the finish line already. And the course points out that this not realistic; if we will go slowly, pace ourselves, and train up, then we will surely recall the peace and joy that is our inheritance. Forcing and faking it are not helpful.
In other words, if we are noticing attack thoughts (which include “being attacked” thoughts), then that’s sufficient. The letting go comes with time.
We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.W-pI.23.7:4-5
We learn in time that time is not real. We learn in bodies that we are not bodies. And we learn in the world that there is no world. Don’t wait on light shows and spiritual lottery tickets. In a gentle and quiet way, give attention to your living, ever reminding yourself that you are the author of your pain, and that a better way waits on your decision.