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Nothing External Affects Us

It is nice to have the insight that nothing external can affect us. I mean “insight” in the sense of knowing – however briefly – the truth of it. Not as an idea but a fact, like when I step into the brook my feet are wet whether I talk about it or not.

Only you can deprive yourself of anything. Do not oppose this realization, for it is truly the beginning of the dawn of light (T-11.IV.4:1-2).

I resisted that insight for a long time simply because it was unfamiliar. It is like walking the same path in the forest over and over – I start to think I have to walk it in order for the prayers to work and the moon to rise and the world to turn, but of course that’s nonsense. So much simply unfolds without any effort or input on our part. And when we see this, we unfold into it a little, and it’s not stressful at all but peaceful. It’s not a negation but an affirmation.

But we can’t rush it. We can’t wake up and say, “okay. Today I am going to have this insight.” Wishful thinking and good  intentions are okay so far as they go, but they don’t go very far. Better to wake up and just do what’s in front of us, knowing that insight is only a moment away, only a finger’s length away.

Of course the value of this metaphor is limited, but it is not entirely inappropriate to go through our day like little kids on our birthday, expecting at any moment to be gifted beyond our wildest dreams by a parent who loves us very much.

Our resistance to this openness – which is really our insistence that that what we are in truth is a self that is separate from God, and that knows better than God what that self (and lots of other selves out there) need – can and does assume many forms (T-11.IV.4:3).

What’s hard to understand at first – and so we have to be patient, trusting that giving attention to this issue will eventually reveal the inherent gift – is that pointing the finger at ourselves is no different than pointing the finger at external images, whatever – or whomever – they might happen to be.

So, you know, I resist it because I prefer the familiar modes of thought – I am habituated to the egoic self and am too lazy to give the requisite attention for a shift in thought. Or I decide that I need to read another book by David Bohm or Tara Singh. Or I need to start an argument about the Latin roots of atonement with somebody. Or I need to stop eating gluten. Or start eating dark chocolate. Or whatever.

Resistance in this case always takes the form of external cause – it is the idea that there is something out there that I can use to change what is internal. The faultiness of this idea does not change according to the external symbol. It is always wrong, no matter how attractive or persuasive the external becomes. So we have to be diligent in refusing to give attention to it.

This is a crucial step in the reawakening. The beginning phases of this reversal are often quite painful, for as blame is withdrawn from without, there is a strong tendency to harbor it within (T-11.IV.4:4-5).

I think we have all experienced this – blaming ourselves for our fear and guilt and anger and so forth – but it becomes especially acute when we realize that the external is no longer responsible, and can no longer serve as an emotional punching bag.

So maybe I blamed my wife for things, or my father, or my Irish genes, or the internet, or capitalism, or Ken Wapnick or whatever and whomever. And then one day I have the insight that none of that is the cause of my unhappiness and conflict. It’s like I’ve been riding a horse for miles and miles, years and years, and all of a sudden I have to walk on my own.

It seems natural in that moment to simply blame ourselves: I am insufficiently spiritual, I don’t practice the ACIM lessons religiously, I read too much Gary Renard or too little Sri Aurobindo, I have no discipline, and so on and so forth. It can get to where we just feel toxic inside – like we are rotten or faulty in a general abstract way, damaged spiritual goods that we don’t even want Jesus to have to look at.

What’s hard to get at first – and we have to be patient, and we have to trust that giving attention to this will eventually reveal the gift – is that pointing the finger at ourselves is no different than pointing the finger at all those external images. They are, as the course points out, “exactly the same thing, for there is no distinction between within and without” (T-11.IV.4:6).

Blame is blame, and shame is shame – we can project it or we can harbor it, and it doesn’t change. So we have to look at it where it is, without judgment, without any rush to “fix” it, and then – maybe not right away, but sooner than we often think – it dissolves. It actually dissolves. C’est un miracle!

And then we can start to give attention to what is: what is when there is no self battling for supremacy, what is when there is no self shouting its ideas about truth and beauty and God, what is when – for a few blessed moments – we don’t need anything external, and so the internal seas settle a little, and we float on them a while, going nowhere together, and together knowing home.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Annie August 1, 2014, 8:29 am

    Sweet Surrender ♡

    • Sean Reagan August 1, 2014, 8:43 pm

      Great song!

      And a great sentiment too . . .


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