Pacing in the ACIM Daily Lessons

The early lessons of A Course in Miracles go slowly, the one building on the other in ways that can feel so slight as to be almost negligible. We might long for the express lane to awakening, or a path that appears less obtuse. Yet both the pace and the logic of the progression of the ACIM daily lessons builds a strong foundation for healing at the level of mind.

The sixth lesson of A Course in Miracles is a good example of this: “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”

We are not consistently happy. Our sense of peace and joy is always compromised. If we are not hurt or angry or guilty in one moment, we may well be in the next, and so a sense of impermanence always threatens even our happiest moments. Lesson Six of A Course in Miracles is an invitation to deepen our understanding that both our distress and our fragile inner peace are illusory because they they are premised on a wrong idea.

If we can reach that wrong idea, and see its ineffectiveness, then we can replace it with a better idea, which is to say, we can begin to re-learn a joy and inner peace that are not conditional.

We think that we are angry because so-and-so stepped on our toe. Or because it rained on our picnic. We think we are depressed because our preferred candidate didn’t win election. We think we are scared because the world isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously.

That is, we notice our feelings and we identify their cause. Absent the cause, we wouldn’t feel the way we feel. And the causes are always outside our control. I can’t fix the rain, I can’t cast more than one more vote, I can’t keep the world from stepping on my toes.

Lesson six does not deny the law of cause-and-effect, nor the way that it appears in our lives, but it does suggest that we reconsider our certainty that the external world can actually function as a cause. We are asked to name “the form of the upset (anger, fear, worry, depression and so on) and the perceived source very specifically” (W-pI.6.1:2).

This specificity is what allows us to anchor the lesson in a personal way (these are my feelings), and also in a way that feels logical and rational (this is the world I live in). The lesson’s effectiveness – and the workbook’s overall effectiveness – is strengthened by this.

For example, we might say “I am angry at my boss because she doesn’t recognize how much overtime I give to my job.”

Or, “I am depressed about my marriage because my partner no longer expresses much interest in me.”

Or, “I am scared because I don’t have enough money to pay next month’s property tax bill.”

To the ego – that is, to the habitual thought patterns that characterize our thinking minds – these seem like reasonable statements. Who would disagree?

But to each them, without qualification or conditions, Lesson Six adds: “I see something that is not there” (W-pI.6.1:4-5).

That is, the actual cause of our upset is not the named external cause but rather the fact that we “see something that is not there.”

In other words, both the form of our upset and the apparent cause are illusions. We think they are real – they certainly seem real and feel real – yet they are not. We are getting worked up literally over nothing.

But not quite nothing! For so long as we accept fear and guilt and anger as a part of our reality – to be judged good or bad, reasonable or unreasonable, to be mitigated, resisted, et cetera – than those experiences will remain real for us.

Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions (T-5.V.4:1-4).

Thus, lesson six allows us to begin undoing what we have accepted into our mind. We look at the specific forms of our upset and distress as well as their perceived causes, but beyond that – as the lessons and our study and practice progress – we are undoing the very idea that what we are can be vulnerable at all.

. . . God created you as part of Him. That is both where you are and what you are. It is completely unalterable. It is total inclusion. You cannot change it now or ever. It is forever true. It is not a belief, but a Fact. Anything that God created is as true as He is. Its truth lies only in its perfect inclusion in Him Who alone is perfect. To deny this is to deny yourself and Him, since it is impossible to accept one without the other (T-6.II.6:2-11).

Accepting this as our actual identity feels like a big step and, as we currently think and live, is is, but keep in mind that we are not called on to make it either alone or all at once. Indeed, the Lessons of A Course in Miracles aim at gently but surely correcting our thought process so that accepting our oneness with God does not feel like a big or scary or dramatic step. Rather, it feels natural. It feels like saying “yes to what already is.

To that end, Lesson Six is a gentle nudge to look more closely at our thinking, and to consider that it may not be working very well. That’s really it. We are getting tied up in knots over something that’s not there. We are like children panicking over a nightmare, unable to discern that it was only a dream (e.g., T-6.V.2:1-5).

Giving our attention and energy to the order of the workbook lessons, we begin to perceive the light that wakens us and, in time, to perceive that the light is us. As we accept that our egoic thinking only perpetuates anxiety, depression, fear and guilt by virtue of a confused application of the law of cause-and-effect, we naturally make space for a healthier way of thinking, one that allows our natural happiness and love to extend themselves in perpetuity.


  1. Sean, what do you think is the illusion? Is it *everything*? Does it include the physical? I just lived through a pair of earthquakes, with lots of aftershocks. I live in Ridgecrest, 5-10 miles away from the epicenter. I’ve never felt or seen things move so violently. I’m fortunate to have suffered little damage to my family and home. My mental state is a different question. I see both the joy of a community pulling together afterwards and the suffering of those that did not fare so well. Just feels like this is a good time to explore the concept of illusion in our physical world.

    1. Hi Wayne,

      Yes – the illusion is the whole thing, from earthquakes to first responders to Sean and Wayne to horses and gardens. All of it, including the idea that all of it is an illusion.

      I distinguish illusion from hallucination (ACIM mostly does as well). An hallucination isn’t there at all (a six-foot rabbit, say), but an illusion is a perceptual and cognitive error about what’s there.

      For example, it’s an illusion that the sun rises and sets; in fact, the earth turns, creating the appearance of a moving sun. And even when we learn the truth, we still tend to perceive and think of the sun as rising in the east, traversing the sky, and then setting in the west.

      I think our sense of self is a lot like that – the one to whom things happen, the one struggling to understand and know, the one for whom the world is unpredictable, alternately joyful and terrifying. None of it is there but it seems to be there, and the “seems” is both pervasive and persuasive.

      To our bodies, other bodies and physical events will always be real. The earthquake or grooming horses is not separate from our bodies – our bodies bring those experiences forth (we see and hear and feel . . . ) and, vice-versa, those experiences bring forth our experience of a body (there are smells, sights, tremors, whinnies . . . )

      Illusions can’t undo illusions. I can’t sit up all Christmas Eve and into Christmas waiting for Santa to appear so I can ask him if he’s real. Often, we are trying to understand “illusion” from within the illusion, or with the illusion. Ego is very supportive of this strategy because it can never work, but it can feel productive and meaningful. But ultimately, ego never argues against itself, and a rock dropped on a foot will always hurt.

      It’s like trying to haul oneself up with their own bootstraps. It won’t ever happen but a lot of time and energy can be wasted trying.

      The course asks an interesting question: “Who is this ‘you’ who are living in this world?” (T-4.II.11:8)

      This particular question (and its answer) rest on the ACIM premise that ego (false self and world) are wholly and utterly precluded from spirit (self as God’s Creation, creating like Its Creator); the two never meet (T-4.I.2:6).

      Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it . . . Your self and God’s Self *are in opposition (T-4.I.2:7, 9).

      If we use the sun analogy, we can see that there’s no middle ground between sun is moving/sun is still. The sun just doesn’t move through the sky; the earth turns, creating the appearance of a moving sun. Full stop. There’s nothing to negotiate, no bargains to strike, and no compromise to make. “Seems” gives way to “is.”

      In a similar way, ego can never reach the reality, the non-illusion, of spirit. There is no compromise between this world/self experience and Truth; we can’t navigate from one to the other.

      The dreamer who doubts the reality of his dream while he is still dreaming is not really healing his split mind. You dream of a separated ego and believe in a world that rests upon it. This is very real to you. You cannot undo it by not changing your mind about it (T-4.I.4:3-6).

      So it’s a question of identity, of remembering our identity, and as this remembering happens, the illusion of a separate self and a separate world are naturally undone. We don’t undo them; they are undone as we reestablish our self as God’s Creation, creating like our Creator. As the course often points out, when the light comes, the darkness is gone because that is what light and dark are (e.g., T-2.VII.5:4).

      This “remembering” and “reestablishing” are functions of willingness (radical willingness is probably a better phrase) to “change our mind” more than they are an accomplishment. We don’t really “change” anything; we simply agree to resign as Boss of our own thinking, King of our own mind. This is hard! Our investment in and attachment to ego – its perceptions, beliefs, stories, logic, world, etc – is quite powerful. It owns the gravitational intensity of a black hole (which is not a bad analogy, save that the ego isn’t real so we are never in actual danger). Hence Jesus and Holy Spirit.

      If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God (T-4.I.4:7).

      To the ego, that promise is a threat which it resists (by arguing with it, by studying it, by forgetting it, by repeating it but not applying it, by comparing it to alternatives, by asking for proof first, et cetera). But really, it’s the answer (for those of us tracking the form of the curriculum called A Course in Miracles).

      This answer is already too long, but the workbook lessons are a great practical means of letting go of ego, learning how to recognize spirit, making space for spirit, opening to God and revelation, and so forth. I feel very grateful.

      Thank you for sharing Wayne!


  2. Just pausing to offer a simple thank you, Sean. Based on the length and depth of my sigh after reading, this is very helpful . . . and if I can renounce the role as guardian of my thought system. . . liberating.

    ❤️ Cheryl

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