A Course in Miracles Lesson 37

My holiness blesses the world.

If the world is an illusion, then why are we here? What is the purpose of this illusion?

A Course in Miracles suggests that the answer is: so that we can see the world as and through our holiness, which ends the separation. When we do this, we and the world are blessed together, sacrifice and loss disappear, and all that remains is love.

In essence, that is our role in the illusion. In truth we do nothing; love always “comes of itself.”

In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for minds are joined without the body’s interference, and where there is communication there is peace . . . communication embraces everything, and in the peace it re-establishes, love comes of itself (T-15.IX.7:1, 6).

The course further implies that this is a natural and organic experience extending from what we are in truth.

Your holiness is the salvation of the world. It lets you teach the world that it is one with you, not by preaching to it, not by telling it anything, but merely by your quiet recognition that in your holiness are all things blessed along with you (W-pI.37.3:1-2).

One way to ascertain whether are “seeing” this way is to ask if we are also seeing sacrifice of any kind – is something being demanded of us? Are we making demands of someone or something else?

That is, with respect to our ACIM practice, do we believe we have to give something up in order to experience holiness and its promise of peace? Our family maybe? Our sex life? The joy of eating chocolate? Gazing at cardinals and painted buntings? Bob Dylan songs? Emily Dickinson poems? What?

If you believe that you will lose anything (which will probably show up as the fear of losing something), then you are depriving yourself of the very peace that is your holiness. Its peace is what you are.

Indeed, our holiness is only means by which “the idea of sacrifice can be removed from the world’s thinking” (W-pI.37.2:1).

Any other way of seeing will inevitably demand payment of someone or something. As a result the perceiver will lose. Nor will he have any idea why he is losing. Yet is his wholeness restored to his awareness through your vision. Your holiness blesses him by asking nothing of him. Those who see themselves whole make no demands (W-pI.27.2:2-7).

When we gaze at the world through holiness, we see the reality that is beyond separation. We do not see separate selves with separate interests, but one self in communication remembering its identity as God’s creation. And that self has everything because it is everything.

What we are in truth knows that loss is not possible because it only sees through holiness, which can only bless what it sees.

No one loses; nothing is taken away from anyone; everyone gains through your holy vision. It signifies the end of sacrifice because it offers everyone his full due. And he is entitled to everything because it is his birthright as a Son of God (W-pI.37.1:4-6).

This is a deeply threatening idea to the ego, whose existence depends on your willingness to believe you are a body in the world and thus subject to the limitations of both. But to what you are in truth, nothing else but this idea is true.

Thus, lesson 37 offers us a profound opportunity: by making contact with holiness, we can pass beyond the body and the world to what we are in truth. No suggestion is made here that this has to happen; we are early yet in our study and practice. But the way is clear: and joy and peace are its outcome.

←Lesson 36
Lesson 38→

A Course in Miracles: Lesson 36

My holiness envelopes everything I see.

Having reestablished the identity of the perceiver in the previous lesson, Lesson 36 shifts our focus back to what is perceived, with the caveat that how we see has shifted because of how we understand our identity.

You are holy because your mind is part of God’s. And because you are holy, your sight must be holy as well . . . Your sight is related to [God’s] Holiness, not to your ego, and therefore not to your body (W-pI.36.1:2-3, 8).

It is critical to discern here between what the body’s eyes do and what mind does. The body’s eyes can gaze at an altar and see icons and candles but it is mind that sees holiness. The body’s eyes see a field of wildflowers but it is mind that sees beauty.

And, since our mind is part of God’s, we cannot be sinful – which is to say, we cannot actually make errors that require correction. Thus, when we “see” with God we are seeing in Truth and can only perceive reality as God created it: beauty, holiness, grace, love.

Echoes of this concept abound in the text, perhaps nowhere more acutely than in the early section The Illusion of Needs.

Perfect love casts out fear.
If fear exists,
Then there is not perfect love.
Only perfect love exists.
If there is fear,
It produces a state that does not exist (T-1.VI.5:4-8).

Indeed, the text suggests that to the extent we are willing to submit everything to this test, we will instantly and perfectly remember our identity in God.

This lesson is also a reframing of our use of projection. We are not denying the existence of external objects – be they rugs, fingers, walls or hemlock trees – but rather investigating what happens when we observe them enveloped in our holiness.

That is, rather than projecting fear and hate and guilt, we are extending our holiness, which is an aspect of the Love we both have and are as God’s creations.

What happens to the world when we do this? What happens to us?

It can be helpful to keep the admonitions of Lesson 23 in mind here.

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 effects will change automatically (W-pI.23.2:3-7).

We are advancing our understanding of what the world is and what we are by recognizing that God is our Source, our Creator, and that our holiness is unconditional and therefore what is seen from within it can only serve the cause and function of Love.

We are saying that to see is to create, and it is given us to create like our Creator. We are saying that the cause of the world can be fear or holiness.

And we are experimenting now with what happens when our gaze is given to holiness and thus sees only what is holy.

There is great healing potential in this lesson. It is an opportunity to lastingly ground ourselves in a way of thinking and being that is given to undoing confusion and misdirection.

What are you in truth? You may not yet be able to answer that question but are you ready perhaps to at least acknowledge that what ever you are, it is holy indeed?

←Lesson 35
Lesson 37→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 35

My mind is part of God’s. I am very holy.

Lesson 35 is a powerful lesson because it deepens the conceptual framework of healing through vision (rather than dying through seeing), and because it invites us to adopt this renewed framework for our daily ACIM practice going forward.

Through projection and denial, ego makes a world that reinforces its existence. It insists that what we are is a body which is vulnerable because it exists in a world that is hostile and dangerous. Loss and sacrifice are the hallmarks of ego’s made-up environment.

In ego’s world, we do not believe we are holy. We do not believe we are creations of God Who is Love. Yet it is because of this disbelief that ego’s world exists.

This a restatement of the insight in The Healing of the Dream: “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1).

In the ego’s world, you and I believe we are bodies and these bodies inhabit a certain kind of world. This seems beyond question. Thus, it makes sense to protect ourselves – to go to any lengths to ensure that we have food, clothing and shelter. To deny our brothers and sisters whenever they encroach on our space, interior and exterior. To desecrate the earth’s oceans and forests and plains. To go to war if necessary.

Of course we attack in this world; we attack because we are attacked.

And yet.

. . . you surround yourself with the environment you want. And you want it to protect the image of yourself that you have made. The image is part of this environment. What you see while you believe you are in it is seen through the eyes of the image. This is not vision. Images cannot see (W-pI.35.2:2-7).

Images cannot see.

What we believe we are is in fact dead and incapable of understanding or causation or anything. What we believe we are has no more “life” than a character in a book or on a screen.

Thus, we are confused about what we are in truth. It is this confusion – this error – that A Course in Miracles is given to correct.

So Lesson 35 shifts our focus from what is perceived to that which perceives (W-pI.35.3:3). This is a new and nontrivial emphasis, designed to establish our “Source” and thus reestablish our identity as it “must really be in truth” (W-pI.35.3:2).

The lesson invites us to evaluate our self in whatever terms occur to us – depressed, endangered, helpless, charitable (W-pI.35.6:3,5, 6, 9) – and to ground these assessments in the concrete facts that apparently make up our lives.

For example, if I describe myself as “helpless,” I might bring to mind all the circumstances that characterize this condition – the boss that never listens, the lack of funds to make big life changes, the parents who refuse to be accountable for what they did to me as a child, and so forth.

To each of these detailed judgments we simply acknowledge that our minds are part of God’s Mind and we are thus holy (W-pI.35.7:5).

It doesn’t matter if the ego-based perception of self is good or bad, by the way. They’re all equally untrue. It can seem that seeing ourselves in a loving light is superior to the alternative. But illusions aren’t made true because we like they way they look or how they make us feel. They are true or they are false.

And if they are of the ego, they are false. Full stop.

This is the beginning of a profound shift in our thinking, one that goes not into the world but rather into the self which brings that world forth. At first, this will be addressed to the “image” – to the “self” that ego makes up to advance its agenda.

But gradually, as our practice deepens and intensifies, we will begin to sense that our actual identity goes far beyond the narrow, mean-spirited and uncreative domain of ego. We are holy. We are creations of the God of Love, capable only of creating Love. Nothing else is holy because nothing else can be holy.

Everything else is a bad dream.

We may not wake up from that dream today, but we can be confident that this lesson is a firm and extensive step in awakening’s direction.

←Lesson 34
Lesson 36→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 34

I could see peace instead of this.

This is one of my favorite lessons in the ACIM workbook. I truly believe that it encapsulates several core ideas that are essential to practicing A Course in Miracles. We are the one with Love. We remember and extend Love by choosing to think differently. Changing our thoughts changes what we see and the result is peace.

That’s A Course in Miracles in a nutshell. 

I spent the night in a hospital. I arrived late, after a long day, and I stayed up for about nine hours sitting by my father’s bed. I hate hospitals. They make me feel powerless. They’re like bland bureaucracies with the power of life and death. I feel depersonalized and threatened when I am in them. And that’s on top of worrying about Dad. 

I generally respond to fear with rage-like fantasies that are alternately scary, embarrassing and silly. It’s like part of my mind has to compensate for the fear and to do so by doubling down on the fundamental conflict. It’s crazy. It helps nothing and nobody.

So I want to do better than that. My father needs me and I do not help anybody – not my father, not myself, not my siblings or mother, not the dedicated staff – if I am crazy and sullen and paranoid.

Lesson 34 was a beautiful and helpful – in part because it was also frustrating – antidote.

I began practicing at about 3 a.m. while my father slept. The room was tiny and the chair was hard but it was a fine and mellow meditation. I read the lesson by the light of my cell phone, then closed my eyes. I found that my mind followed the previous lessons – I am not the victim of the world I see because I have invented the world I see and there is another way of looking at the world – which naturally evoked “I could see peace instead of this.”

Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful interpretation of the world arises (W-pI.34.1:2-4).

And, indeed, this was how it functioned.

Perhaps because it was quiet and dark, perhaps because it was an unusual and intense situation, but I “broke” the lesson’s suggestion that I focus on my thoughts. I fully recognize and accept that peace is an inside job, an internal matter, the external world merely reflecting an interior decision. But when those five minutes were over I opened my eyes and kept going. I’d look at the hospital bed. I could see peace instead of this. The cord you yank to call the nurses? I could see peace instead of this. The concrete garage blocking my view out the window? I could see peace instead of this.

This is an example of allowing ourselves to meet A Course in Miracles where we are

I applied it to sounds. That beeping from the saline drip? I could see peace instead of this. The snoring two doors down? I could see peace instead of this. The doctor telling a joke?

I could see peace instead of this.

And slowly I began to see peace. And – more than that – realize that peace was what I’d been seeing all along. I’d walked into that hospital fully expecting the worst but ready to be okay with it. This is going to suck, Jesus, and we both know it, but let’s get it done. And at first – for a quick couple of minutes – it did suck. All the doors were locked. But then this guy – who knows what he was doing sitting in a dark car with his window open – directed me to the one door that was open. The don’t-mess-with-me security officer at the front desk? Asked about the weather before directing me upstairs. The nurse who I thought was going to demand I leave because “visiting hours” were over? She brought me a pillow and a blanket.

Every turn – whatever happened – the worst turned out to be okay. No, it was better than okay. And then, at some point during my Lesson 34 mumbles, maybe around the time the sun was starting to rise, it hit me. Things were okay because I was okay. That willingness at the beginning meant I was bringing my will into alignment with God’s will. And even though that didn’t pacify the ego – hence the ongoing fear – it did open something deeper, something beyond the ego’s reach. I experienced love and safety at each turn because I am love and safety. No me as in Sean, you understand. Me as in you and me. And you and me as in God, as Love itself.

This was a sort of peaceful recognition. I was exhausted – sleep-deprived – strung out on bad coffee – worried about how the rest of the day was going to pan out. No light shows. No dulcet voices. Just a sweet warm sense of peace. I’m okay. It’s okay. When we are willing to act as if we are not ego – when we are willing to be miracle workers even though we doubt the assignment – we are unified and in union we are pacified. Maybe it’s Jesus. Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit.

And maybe God is Love and as God’s creations, we too are Love. 

This post is deeply autobiographical. We experience the course in the context of our lives in the world; we aren’t monks and nuns doing the lessons in isolation. We are embodied in the world and the lessons are the means – in that body in that world – by which we learn the truth of what we are.

←Lesson 33
Lesson 35→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 33

There is another way of looking at the world.

Because we invent the world, we can choose to see it differently. We can opt to frame it in new lights that bring forth aspects or tones that make us and others happier. Because we have the same power of creation as our Creator, we can choose love instead of fear.

And so we turn our attention to the world that we see – the outer world and the inner world – and we gently remind ourselves that there is another way of looking at it all.

It is important to give attention to this lesson without trying to jump ahead – to wanting to see it differently now. This lesson builds on previous ones, and its emphasis is on becoming aware of our power of choice which is what brings forth the possibility of healing.

Later lessons will teach us how to wield this choice; today’s asks us merely to become comfortable with its existence.

The lesson also emphasizes casualness. This is an important insight into our learning process. A Course in Miracles is not asking us to be spiritual superheroes or giants. It is not about who practices the hardest or the longest or the most intensely.

It is a gentle, self-directed curriculum that asks nothing of us that we cannot give, and allows us considerable flexibility in the pace and intensity of the learning experience.

Thus, it is important to be patient and forgiving with ourselves, and to meet ACIM where we are and allow the relationship to evolve according to the calm confidence of Spirit rather than ego. Merely show up and let what happens happen.

←Lesson 32
Lesson 34→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 32

I have invented the world I see.

Today’s lesson of A Course in Miracles picks up on yesterday’s in what should seem like a predictable way.  We are not victims of the world we see because we invented the world we see.

You could give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish. While you want it you will see it; when you no longer want it, it will not be there for you to see (W-pI.32.1:3-5).

In this way, the lesson keeps our focus on revising our understanding of cause and effect, essentially, reversing it. In the world’s understanding, external causes create internal emotional effects. We are well or not well based on what’s happening outside of us – and we have no control over those external events. Our inner state is unreliable because the outer state is as well, and the outer causes the inner.

A Course in Miracles suggests instead that we look inside, see the kind of world we want to see – one that supports our commitment to separation, guilt and fear – and then project it outward (e.g., T-13.V.3:5). The inner is the cause of the outer. We’ve got perception – and cause-and-effect – backwards.

In truth, the inner world and the outer are the same (W-pI.32.2:1) because both are in our imagination (W-pI.32.2:3).

In a sense, this sequence of lessons revolves around the idea of will. Whose will is being exercised? Whose is being suppressed? To what ends are the exercise or suppression being put?

For most of us, especially as ACIM beginners, we are exercising self-will, which is of the ego, which is also a de facto suppression of God’s Will. Ego  is very selective in terms of what it allows into awareness and what it excludes. Its selectivity is predicated on judgment – this is good, this is bad. And the standard of judgment is always its survival. Does [insert perceived object/idea] perpetuate ego’s existence? If yes, then it’s good. If not, then forget about it. And forget you forgot about it. For the ego, there is no other standard. Why should there be?

This is part of why A Course in Miracles so often suggests that we ask what everything is for things are for (T-17.VI.2:1-2). Ego’s judgment decides the function of everything based on whether it will keep the ego alive and active. But that’s its goal, not ours. Our goal is to undo the ego and be free of the limitations its thought system forces on us. So we have to shift our focus. Even when we think we know what something is for, it’s helpful to ask again. Is there another way to see our job? Our children? Our routines?

Remembering that we are creators of the world and not merely passive observers can help us to ask these questions more pointedly as well as be more open-minded with respect to the answers.

The “answers,” by the way, are always some variation of “yes. There is a way to see this that brings forth love, not fear.”

Of course, this series of lessons is not really proactive in the sense of telling us how to undo the ego. The course is inviting us to notice – by giving attention to – how ego functions. What are its effects? How shall we evaluate those effects?

Thus, ACIM is really about changing our minds about mind. That’s it. If we can see the ego, and if we can accept that we do not share its agenda, then we will naturally withdraw our support from its frantic spinning of story and world. What happens after that is in God’s hands.

This is what A Course in Miracles means when it tells us that we are already saved, that the journey is already over. We aren’t creating new selves or improving on old ones. Rather, we are allowing our true selves – which are hidden but by no means ruined or gone because they are Creation – to shine through the sludge of ego and thus remind of us what we are in truth. As we remember this, the “sludge of ego” disappears as soon as we decide we neither need nor want it anymore. We can do this because “we invented the world we see.”

←Lesson 31
Lesson 33→