A Course in Miracles Lesson 60

We have to question everything that arises from the ego’s dualistic belief system (e.g., T-11.VIII.3:8). This is what the lessons help us do: they are a practical means to apply the principles of A Course in Miracles to the day-to-day reality of our lives. But our questioning has to be undertaken with our eyes on awakening to the truth of our identity in God. It can’t be mere brain chatter. It can’t be just another idea.

When our questioning is animated by forgiveness, it leads to the undoing of all illusions, which is what allows us to wake up.

In A Course in Miracles, to forgive is to “overlook” (T-9.IV.1:2). We don’t focus on the so-called error – whether it be harsh words in the mouth of a brother or sister or the harsh judgment of them in our mind. In both cases, our goal is to see past the so-called error – the harsh words or judgment – to the perfection of the given brother or sister. We want to see them as God sees them, not as ego sees them.

This is hard! And figuring out how to do it is a process, one that A Course in Miracles is given to guide us through. We have to be willing to look at the seeming cause of our upset and question its reality. This person’s words hurt my feelings. My hurt is proof that I am a separate body and that pain is possible. Yet if we stay with the questioning we can also ask: is there another way to see this?

It is not my strength through which I forgive. It is through the strength of God in me, which I am remembering as I forgive. As I begin to see, I recognize His reflection earth (W-pI.60.2:2-4).

That reflection reaches our memory as “the Love I chose to forget, but which has not forgotten me” (W-pI.60.:6).

This begets both joy and responsibility. Joy because joy is what we are in truth. And responsibility because we can only remember what we are in truth when we awaken others.

Yet when we accept this responsibility it becomes possible to remember the fundamental insight of Lesson 34 – I could see peace instead of this. We can release our need to be right – so and so is mean, or I really am a bad person, or whatever – and instead choose peace.

We only hurt because we have projected hurt outside of us. Unable to look at the pain inside us (because of ego’s interpretation of God as cruel and the self as unforgivable) – we push it onto others. They hurt us and we say, “I was right.” Their misdeeds become proof of ego’s dubious theory that God is mortally angry at us.

But if we question this thought process, then we can forgive it. If we see the hurt as being a projection we made, then the brother or sister who was the object of the projection can be seen as wholly innocent.

And we can also see that because we can see another way, then it must also be true that God is not actually angry at us and so we can look within. We can consider that there is another way live.

And then, inevitably, we remember our holiness.

As I open my eyes, God’s Love lights up the world for me to see. As I forgive, His Love reminds me that His Son is sinless. And as I look upon the world with the vision He has given me, I remember that I am His Son (W-pI.60.5:3-5).

This can sound complicated – many steps in a process, many ideas that are hard to work through. But it really comes down to our willingness to be taught a new way of living. We reject our old way of learning, guided by ego, and choose instead the wholly reliable and wholly holy instruction of the Holy Spirit. In a sense, to choose the Holy Spirit as a guide is to choose the path of ACIM forgiveness, for the two are not separate.

Lesson 59 reminded us the separation was not real. Lesson 60 reminds us of the process by which we can accept that truth in a real and pragmatic way. We do not need to suffer. Are we ready to live in the peace of Christ and the Love of God?

←Lesson 59
Lesson 61→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 59

The body’s eyes see illusions because they are illusions. Like begets like. To the body, the world will always be real because body and world arise together, the one bringing the other forth.

But we are not bodies. This is not to suggest that what the body’s eyes see needs to be denigrated or denied. Let it be what it is, so that we might better remember our fundamental perfection as creations of a loving God.

Let me be willing to exchange my pitiful illusion of seeing for the vision that is given by God. Christ’s Vision is His Gift, and He has given it to me. Let me call upon this gift today, so that this day may help me to understand eternity (W-pI.59.2:4-6).

Vision is unrestrained by the body which is always a limit. Vision is not subject to time and space. It does not have dimensions. It is God’s Will creating in us as we are created in It.

I can see what God wants me to see. I cannot see anything else. Beyond His Will lie only illusions (W-pI.59.3:3-5).

The decision that we make is not see with or as God. Rather, it is to not see any other way. That is, our work is to release that which blocks the free flow of Love in us. The Love Itself already flows as a condition of what it is.

As we surrender our insistence on our own sight – which includes our own definitions and organization and systemics – we begin to understand the perfect clarity and uninterruptible oneness of Christ’s Vision.

Now it is given me to understand that God is the light in which I see. Let me welcome vision and the happy world it will show me (W-pI.59.4:6-7).

This happiness is assured; it is the so-called endgame of our journey through A Course in Miracles. Because we one with God, we cannot think apart from God (W-pI.59.5:3). Thus, our thoughts are God’s thoughts and God’s Thoughts are ours (W-pI.59.5:4). Where is the separation now?

Grace and divine equanimity attend us when we attend A Course in Miracles as serious students committed to remembering our shared identity with our Creator. We become happy, not in a delirious or excitable way, but in a quiet way that naturally extends to all our brothers and sisters. The calm we bring forth in others is our calm; and by seeing it in others, we remember it is ours.

←Lesson 58
Lesson 60→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 58

When we encounter resistance, it’s good to be patient. Resistance is a good teacher. Sometimes I open a lesson – review or otherwise – or read a section of the text, and I don’t understand it. Or it annoys me. I can feel myself obscuring the words, pushing their message as far away as possible. Or I get masochistic. I’m going to figure this out right now no matter what! And an hour later I still don’t know what’s going on, only now I have a headache and I’m late for work or I forgot to eat breakfast.

Resistance is part of our experience of practicing A Course in Miracles and healing our split mind. I felt it this morning, reading this lesson. What is all this abstract metaphysical nonsense? “As I recognize my holiness, so does the holiness of the world shine forth for everyone to see” (W-pI.58.2:5). Or “Seen through understanding eyes, the holiness of the world is all I see, for I can picture only the thoughts I hold about myself” (W-pI.58.1:5).

What do those sentences actually mean? I start to argue with them. I get frustrated with myself for not getting it. People wake up  with A Course in Miracles. Why don’t I perceive the holiness of the world? Why do my eyes insist on confusion and separation rather than understanding?

When this happens, it’s okay to put the book away, make coffee, bake muffins, do a crossword. Eventually we learn that resistance isn’t as scary as it used to be. It’s just another symptom of fear. Of what are we so scared? Why are we unwilling to go into what scares us? Resistance is just unwillingness, which is just another form of fear.

What is there to be saved from except illusions? And what are illusions except false ideas about myself? My holiness undoes them all by asserting the truth about me (W-pI.58.3:3-5).

So get a little space. A few minutes to breathe. I watch chickens scratch the snow. Admire grackles and chickadees in the maple trees. The kids wake up. And then I remember. God is love extending love. Something in me softens. I take my coffee and read the lesson again.

Herein lies my claim to all good and only good. I am blessed as a Child of God. All good things are mine, because God intended them for me. I cannot suffer loss or deprivation or pain because of Who I am (W-pI.58.4:2-5).

And I see it. All those references to our holiness . . . How can we read this lesson – or any of the lessons to which it makes reference – and come away thinking we are lost or hopeless or unlovable. We are perfect creations of a Loving God. When we accept this truth about ourselves, then we are finished with fear, and the world is blessed along with us (W-pI.58.4:4-5). Why see ourselves in any other light than the one in which God gifts both us and the world as one?

I can accept the innocence that is the truth about me. Seen though understanding eyes, the holiness of the world is all I see, for I can picture only the thoughts I hold about myself (W-pI.58.1:4-5).

I want to insist on being broken. I am invested in stumbling. Self-denigration and self-debasement are my mode. It’s a back-handed way of allowing ego’s judgment to go on. I might talk as if I am saved but secretly I do not accept this truth about myself. You maybe. And me someday. But not now.

There is another way.

And that other way is precisely what Lesson 58 insists we learn: right now, right here, without any modification or alteration whatsoever, we are blessed by God. We are God’s holy Children, a Family of perfect light and love, and we can take that knowledge with us everywhere and it will embrace every living thing we encounter.

That is what we resist: the peace, comfort and happiness for which we have been pining for so long. When we sit quietly with our resistance, perhaps we can see this. And seeing it, can offer to let go of our resistance. Give it to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to Love. How we describe letting go of resistance is not nearly as important as what happens when we do let it go.

When we let it go, we become willing to be healed, to be one with the One whose desire for us is our desire for the One.

←Lesson 57
Lesson 59→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 57

A Course in Miracles suggests that when it comes the illusion of being bodies in a world we are effectively willing prisoners. Our suffering is a decision we make. And because the power of decision is ours, we can make another.

Nothing holds me in this world. Only my wish to stay keeps me a prisoner. I would give up my insane wishes and walk into the sunlight at last (W-pI.57.1:7-9).

This is easy to say but hard to actually believe. We treat it as a passing concept about our being, rather than the truth of our being. But thinking this way is what keeps us imprisoned. A Course in Miracles does not argue with us – it doesn’t try to convince us. It merely offers us another way to see our situation.

Since the purpose of the world is not the one I ascribed to it, there must be another way of looking at it. I see everything upside down, and my thoughts are the opposite of truth (W-pI.57.3:2-3).

The question is not whether this statement is true or false; the question is whether we want it to be true or false.

You made the problem God has answered. Ask yourself, therefore, but one simple question:

Do I want the problem or do I want the answer?

Decide for the answer and you will have it, for you will see it as it is, and it is yours already (T-11.VIII.4:4-7).

The choice is not ambiguous. It is not unclear. Do we want God’s peace or the ego’s war (W-pI.57.4:3)?

When we choose peace without reservation peace becomes us because it is us. But our choice must be freely made and reflect our genuine willingness to remember what we are in truth. Half-measures are ineffective.

Our decision to side with God, means that we see the world as God sees it, which means that we begin to see “our” peace is also the peace that “abides in the hearts” of all our brothers and sisters (W-pI.57.4:4).

The world I look upon has taken on the light of my forgiveness, and shines forgiveness back at me. In this light I begin to see what my illusions about myself kept hidden. I begin to understand the holiness of all living things, including myself, and their oneness with me (W-pI.57.5:3-6).

Our healed vision – flowing from the mind we share with God – restores us to holiness as it restores all of life to holiness. Nothing is excluded; indeed, it’s inclusion is what makes it – and us – holy.

In this way, A Course in Miracles makes us happy without taking anything away from us. We give up nothing in exchange for everything.

←Lesson 56
Lesson 58→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 56

The egoic perspective is that we are bodies. Bodies are vulnerable. They get sick. They can be assaulted. They feel pain and discomfort. They even die. If in fact we are bodies, then defense measures – ranging from cardiovascular exercise to gun ownership – can make sense.

But if we are not bodies, then the whole attack-defense mechanism is not only in effective (what can be attacked? What can be defended?) but it’s affirmatively problematic because it serves to obscure our actual identity.

A Course in Miracles suggests that this dynamic is not our destiny.

I have tried to give my inheritance away in exchange for the world I see. But God has kept my inheritance safe for me. My own real thoughts will teach me what it is (W-pI.56.1:6-8).

Our “real thoughts” are abstract expressions of love that align with the full creative power of God. We are already thinking them; when we stop giving attention to egoic thinking, our real thoughts rise gently to the surface.

What we are in truth is holiness itself, and the gift of holiness is Vision – seeing not with the body’s eyes but with the mind that is creative because it was created in its Creator’s likeness. The real world reflects not the vulnerability of the body but “the Love of God” (W-pI.56.3:4).

Behind every image I have made, the truth remains unchanged. Behind every veil I have drawn across the face of love, its light remains undimmed. Beyond all my insane wishes is my will, united with the Will of my father (W-pI.56.4:2-4).

This is true because “God is still everywhere and in everything forever” (W-pI.56.4:5). We cannot see apart from God, because God is in our mind – and in all that our mind perceives. The truth of what we are is still held in the Mind of God (W-pI.56.5:4). We are one with God’s thoughts and with God (W-pI.56.5:5).

Our practice restores this fact to our memory, and in doing so leads us to a joy and peace that surpass our understanding.

←Lesson 55
Lesson 57→

Food and A Course in Miracles

A lot of people ask about ACIM and diet – are we encouraged, as students of the course, to eat a certain way? Avoid certain foods? Do we fast at this or that time of year and so forth? Does A Course in Miracles forbid eating meat?

Garden tomatoes from this past summer . . .

I think those are natural questions amongst seekers in general. Lots of religions have rules and regulations around food. When I was an aspiring Buddhist most of the men and women with whom I sat and studied were vegetarians. It was an extension of compassion – a way of demonstrating kindness to all life. In part because of that model, I was a vegetarian for many years. I have fond memories of those years, particularly  after I met my wife and my cooking really took off. Chrisoula and I had – and still have from time to time – some incredible veggie dishes. Edward Espe Brown’s Zen-inspired cookbooks (especially The Tassajara Bread Book), Deborah Madison’s work, the various texts spiraling out of the Moosewood Collective . . . I still turn to those recipes.

When I was Catholic – especially as a child – we refrained from eating meat on Fridays (a point somewhat lost on the fish we sometimes consumed). As I grew older and more committed to Catholicism I did a fair amount of fasting – avoiding meals, limiting what I ate, and sometimes going for many days with only juice. Nor are Buddhism and Catholicism the only traditions where food is regulated in some ways.

But when we commit to practicing A Course in Miracles, we leave that behind. Well, we leave it behind in the sense that we no longer associate a formal way of eating – of embracing or rejecting a type of food or food preparation – with salvation. The Course has a single goal – to heal the mind that believes it is separated from God. Its references to behavior are scant at best. That is because correcting behavior does not necessarily heal the mind, while healing the mind will always affect behavior – though often in surprising ways.

Our little orchard was prolific this year . . . these were the blossoms in Spring.

The idea that we can be saved – can end our separation from God, can enter Heaven, et cetera – by changing habits of behavior is an old one. But if it were that easy, we wouldn’t need to have religious and spiritual practices. We’d just adopt certain regulations of behavior, set up some punishment/reward system to reinforce the desired behavior, and police one another. That does not lead to inner peace. In truth, it doesn’t really lead to outer peace either.

What is helpful is making contact with the part of our minds that believes if we can only tweak the external – get the right partner, or the right spiritual practice, or the right diet, or the right prayer – then we will be happy and never struggle again and then remembering that salvation does not work that way. The separation is an inside job – a problem of thought, not circumstance – and so it has to be addressed internally. What is going on outside of us exists as an effect of our thinking, not as a cause. We can learn from it, sure, but the fundamental shift is still going to be at the level of mind.

Thus, you can be a devout meat eater – taking down a meat lover’s pizza every night and a rasher of bacon at breakfast – and be a student of A Course in Miracles. You can also be a vegetarian. Or a vegan. You can be – as Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes once said – a dessertatarian and be a student of the Course. There is no right or wrong way to approach food. As Krishnamurti once said, here paraphrased: eat meat or don’t eat meat but get on with it. In other words, the healing the Course contemplates has nothing to do with our bodies. We can’t eat or fast or exercise or dance or walk our way to inner peace. It’s all in the mind.

Prize-winning eggs from our flock of layer hens.

That said, it’s important to not be cavalier about the issues that can come up around food. For many of us, it is an area in which we need considerable healing. Forgiveness is always appropriate. If someone is addicted to food in some way, then their practice of the Course is going to involve forgiving – seeing with Jesus or the Holy Spirit – that relationship. And that forgiveness – which, remember, happens in the mind – will probably have some effect on the outside.

Our practice of A Course in Miracles is deeply personal. The course never looks the same from one student to the next. We are called to heal in very specific ways. I know Course students who are very passionate about not eating meat. I respect that. My own practice with food has been to deepen my relationship with it at the level of production – Chrisoula and I (and the kids) grow a tremendous amount of veggies and fruit, raise pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat, buy beef from local farmers. We have even kept bees and a goat for milking. I don’t think anybody’s practice of the Course has to mimic that – indeed, it probably shouldn’t. But it is neatly tied into forgiveness for me – a kind of simplicity, a kind of self-reliance, a kind of healthy diet.

The question is always: does it work? It is it helpful? It is important that we not be bullied into thinking that we have to practice a certain way. A Course in Miracles meets us where we are and helps us move from that place ever closer to inner peace and coherence. In that light, what is “right” for someone in an external way is not going to be right for somebody else. It’s okay to find our way.

Apple harvest! Always one of the great joys of homesteading . . .

Ultimately, the course is about changing our minds, where “change” means “heal.” Sometimes that change shows up in the world. Obviously my home and living arrangements look different than other students who aren’t as devoted to homesteading. Obviously, my relationships are in many ways shaded by my family’s commitment to growing, raising and preserving our own food and nurturing a network of like-minded consumers and farmers. But what really matters is the mind in and through which all of this lovingkindness takes place. I  eat and relate to food in the most loving way that I can. If the goal is love – healing the mind – then whatever follows will be helpful.

To that end, be kind to yourself. Remember the guidance of Lesson 294: the body is “of service for a while and fit to serve, to keep its usefulness while it can serve, and then to be replaced for greater good” (W-pII.294.1:11). Don’t endanger yourself or others in the name of spirituality. Eat well; eat in a way that minimizes guilt; eat in a way that extends love to your brothers and sisters, broadly defined. We gain nothing by depriving ourselves of calories, nutrients, water and the simple joys that attend eating. Wherever we are at with respect to food, our eating – the whole gestalt of it, from growing to preparing to eating to composting – is yet a way to remember that together we are Love.

Note: As this post has been read and commented upon over the years, I have become increasingly sensitive to the importance of respecting the food and eating choices of my brothers and sisters. The course is silent on the subject of what to eat; beyond that, food is like everything else – a means to forgive (that is, to see in a loving and holistic way) the world and all its contents. It is necessary to give attention to life as it arises; it is not necessary to adopt rigorous diets, undergo intense fasts or otherwise attack our bodies.

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