A Course in Miracles Lesson 221

Peace to my mind. Let all my thoughts be still.

Thought is inherently separative. A thought about the beach is not a thought about the city. A thought about what will happen at work tomorrow is not a thought about what happened yesterday. When we think, we divide, and we name what we divide, and we judge what we have named.

This is not a crisis! It is not a crime against God or nature. Thought is natural in the sense that it is yet another thing that bodies do, like sneezing or peeing or shivering when it’s cold.

It is good to be patient with thought. When we are patient, we see more clearly how it arises in the body – is a function of the body – and so like everything else bodies do is neutral. It is, as the Course points out, simply another aspect of our experience of the physical world (T-2.IV.3:8).

When we understand that thought is neutral, it is easier to let it go. Letting go of our attachment to thought, our investment in thought – which is simply another form of judgment – is what it means to “let our thoughts be still” (W-pII.221.2:6). When we realize they are all the same, then they no longer demand our attention. Just as we sneeze or pee and get on with our lives, so we will think and get on with our lives.

As every meditator knows, there are gaps between thoughts. There are spaces where thought does not go. Mind can become a still pond, a mirror unto the cosmos, and then the cosmos itself. On the one hand, that’s poetic nonsense. But on the other, it points to something true and affirmative about reality.

It is the space – the mindset, the condition – in which our prayer in this lesson is made effective.

Father, I come to You today to seek the peace that You alone can give. I come in silence. In the quiet of my heart, the deep recesses of my mind, I wait and listen for Your Voice (W-pII.221.1:1-3).

To wait in this way is a form of resting. Our confidence that God will speak to us is not a form of expectation, but humility. Anything else presumes that we know what God is and we are not here – praying this way, meditating this way, calling this way – because we know. We are here because we do not know.

But we are sure we will learn.

Therefore, we make the gentle prayer in gratitude and humility, and then sit quietly in patience. Thoughts come and go and we let them. Judgment comes and goes and we let it. When we are answered by God, we know. And if we are not answered, it is okay. We do not wait – nor go unanswered – alone. Our minds are joined – with each other, with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus (W-pII.221.2:2).

Today, let us wait happily, grateful for such worthy companions, and rest as one in the certainty that Love has not forsaken us.

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A Course in Miracles Lesson 220

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.

This is our last lesson before we begin the second part of the workbook. It is both a promise and  a cautionary note. “There is no peace except the peace of God” (W-pI.220.1:1). How shall we respond to it?

In part, this review asks that we be clear that it is only on the path to peace that we are truly found and not lost (W-pI.220.1:2). When we deviate from lessons of peace, then we bring forth conflict, and the illusion that conflict is real. We forget that nothing real can be threatened (T-in.2:2), but we also forget that nothing unreal exists (T-in.2:3). We become agents of chaos. We pretend that we want peace and happiness, but really we just want a hot mess that we can blame on somebody else.

That’s the cautionary note. For you and me, at this juncture of our lives, there is no other way. This is the way. If we are serious about peace and happiness, then we have to devote ourselves to this study and application of it. Others have their paths; this one is ours.

So in that sense, we want to just restate our commitment to A Course in Miracles, which is our form of the “universal curriculum” (preface). We want to remember how far we have come, and we want to pledge that we will not stop now.

But the review also promises that if we stay the course, if we do not become casual and indifferent, then “peace is certain as the Love of God” (W-pI.220.1:3). Having found the way, and having consented to walk it with our brothers and sisters, we cannot fail. The end is sure, and the end is conflict-free and full of joy.

That’s the promise. If we heed the gentle warning, and remember the unwavering certainty, then we will be brought back home to God. Together we will become Christ, and as Christ, we will gather all our brothers and sisters and with them – for them and with them and through them – return to the home we never left.

Therefore, today’s lesson is a kind of way-station. It’s a moment when our practice gathers itself and steadies itself for the next leg of the journey. But it’s also when it celebrates itself, both for having come so far and for its confidence that it cannot fail. In a nontrival sense, when we know the journey will end in joy, then all that is left is traveling in joy.

Today, then, we take the first step into the new life we have been waiting for all our lives.

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A Course in Miracles Lesson 219

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.

Bodies are limitations on our function and identity. They are not inherently problematic; the problem arises when we think we are bodies, and accept their limitations as our own. Then, suddenly, we are faced with sickness, death and pain. Then, suddenly, we are faced with the burdens imposed on us by the need to survive in a world of scarcity. Then we have to compete with one another rather than cooperate. 

None of this needs to be so! Yet become trapped by our confusion. For all intents and purposes, we are bodies.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that the way out of confusion is through clarification. We learn what is true – bit by bit we learn this – and slowly discard what is false. In time, we build up a new thought system that allows us to more readily remember what Creation is, and what creating is (T-4.VI.5:3).

We are liberated unto remembering we were never “trapped” in the first place. And it all begins with remembering out intimate connection to God.

I am God’s Son. Be still, my mind, and think a moment upon this. And then return to earth, without confusion as to what my Father loves forever as His Son (W-pI.219.1:3-5).

The suggestion is that if we enter the space of stillness and reflect deeply on the promise that we are not separate from God because of what God is and we are, then we will pierce our ignorance, undo the illusion, and no longer be constrained by either.

Hence both this sequence of lessons and the second part of the Workbook, which encourages us to give our attention to just this reflection. It’s like if you study music for a long time – reading, studying, practicing – you are very devoted, very disciplined – and then one day your teacher says, now just play and gives you no other instructions. Find out what happens!

We are being invited to the direct encounter with God that was promised us early in the Workbook (T-1.VII.5:7)). One form that encounter takes is the realization – which we have been repeating these past few days and lessons – “I am not a body/I am free” (W-pI.219.1:6-7). We are making a clear and unequivocal statement about our identity, buttressing it with the equally clear – and beautiful – statement that our freedom from suffering, pain and death can be fully realized because we remain precisely as God created us (W-pI.291.1:8).

Today we are vigilant and clear. Today we speak a bold truth and hold it in our mind like a lantern on a high hill, so that we might not be lost, and might call those around us to relationship. Our Creator and Creation will abide no less.

←Lesson 218
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A Course in Miracles Lesson 218

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.

If we seek the “I Am” – if we seek the experience of knowing God – what are some of the impediments? If it was easy, we wouldn’t need a course or gurus or how-to manuals. In truth, there are many impediments to remembering God (fear of God, anger at God, casualness, ignorance) but most of them share one thing in common: they include, subtly or otherwise, self-condemnation.

My condemnation keeps my vision dark, and through my sightless eyes I cannot see the vision of my glory. Yet today I can behold this glory and be glad (W-pI.218.2-3).

Condemnation takes the form of “I am not worthy.” Or, “why would God bother with me?” Or, “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” Or, “maybe I need to read another book or essay.” Condemnation always postpones joy and peace; it always opts for unhappiness and conflict, however subtly.

People will say the latter two examples in the preceding paragraph don’t reflect condemnation but they do, albeit in nuanced ways. When we love ourselves and want to extend that love to our brothers and sisters, then we don’t postpone it. Who puts off joy and peace except one who wants to suffer? Always it is our attachment to suffering that keeps us mired in separation and the unhappiness and conflict that are its hallmarks.

Likewise, who pretends the answer is outside of him – in another mind, another book, another spiritual path – except someone who is not interested in discovering the truth within their own self now.

Yes, yes. We all have to pass through the phases of self-denigration, putting things off (using time against salvation) and seeking yet another crumb of information, as if the answer were not just given away for free over and over and over, every minute of every day in every mind that is, was or will ever be.

But we have reached a juncture in our ACIM practice where we do not need to play those games any longer. We are not going to hurt ourselves or place obstacles before us. We are not here to condemn ourselves but to remember what is holy in our selves. We are here to remember our innocence, which is shared, and to share it yet again with the world.

When we refuse to harm ourselves – to put ourselves down – we will begin to catch a glimpse of the glory that reflects what we are in truth. We will begin to sense, however dimly, that we are given the answer and all that remains is our willing acceptance. Are we ready to let truth be true? Are we ready to face the radiant light of the one who is God’s Creation and in Whom all Creation lives?

Just how much glory can we stand?

That is the real question, by the way. Most of us at this juncture have had the glimpse. We have a sense of where this all leads. The question now is, how much longer will we wait?

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A Course in Miracles Lesson 217

I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.

Yet there is an important and helpful corollary to the truth that we can only crucify ourselves. If we are doing this to our self, then we can stop doing it. We can change the cause of suffering to the cause of joy. And when we do, it is our own gratitude that we earn (e.g., W-pI.197.h).

This sequence of lessons makes clear a challenging but essential aspect of A Course in Miracles. The many divisions the course appears to embrace – Holy Spirit! Christ! God! Atonement! – begin to dissolve and flow into one another. There is no name for the Whole implied by this flowing unity, yet it can be known. We can know God because it is God’s Will to be known (T-11.VII.4:8).

When Moses asked to be taught the Name of God, the first word of the first answer was ” אֶהְיֶה‎ (’Ehyeh), which has the meaning of “I am.” Set aside for a moment the many debates about the centuries-long debate about the translation and meaning of the word and the phrase. Set aside the theology. Set aside altogether your inclination to argue and debate.

Just consider for a moment that for the people both writing and consuming that text, God did not have a name (like “Moses,” say) so much as an Existence that was shared and thus knowable. God was being itself, before any particular name or label was assigned.

Nor was the western religious and cultural tradition the only human culture to notice this and find it helpful. Nisargadatta, the relatively contemporary sage who is fairly representative of Eastern nondual theology and culture, observed that “[y]ou are sure of the ‘I am’, it’s the totality of being, remember ‘I am’ and it is enough to heal your mind and take you beyond.”

Neither of those traditions – neither of those two applications of language – are far from today’s lesson.

Who should give thanks for my salvation but myself? And how but through salvation can I find the Self to Whom my thanks are due? (W-pI.217.1:2-3).

Soon, our ACIM practice will urge us to rely less on words (W-pII.in.1:1). It will urge us to give attention more to actually resting in and with the Peace of God rather than being adept at explaining and describing it. The emphasis on wordlessness facilitates trust. We become confident that God will reach us no matter how far we seem to have drifted from Him, and no matter how unworthy or undeserving we still consider ourselves.

Listen only to God, Who is as incapable of deception as is the spirit He created. Release yourself and release others. Do not present a false and unworthy picture of yourself to others, and do not accept such a picture of them yourself (T-4.I.10:5-7).

One way to think about that time – and to begin to practice it now – is to simply seek “I am.” This is not an intellectual exercise. No argument for or against it can hold sway over us. We merely want to draw as close to God as we can, the better to remember the cause for gratitude and hope and, in that space of remembrance, reconnect with the Love we both have and are (T-7.IV.6:6).

Therefore, today’s lesson is an invitation to let go of the wordy division that is a hallmark of all texts and workbooks, and all forms of the curriculum, and simply return to the very fundamental essence that merely is, without needing to justify or restrain or express itself at all. The lesson indicates that is our gratitude we earn, and this is true, but can we also begin to see the way that pronouns are not necessary at all? There is merely gratitude? Merely love?

←Lesson 216
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A Course in Miracles: What is Salvation

Salvation is a promise made by God that we are not separate from God, and that the illusion that we are separate will end. It is a promise that our current state of confusion, despair, struggle and pain is not real and will pass away, taking all its effects with it.

Nothing happened. It’s all okay.

Salvation is also a directive – gentle but clear – that salvation is not an action we take in the world. It’s not a reward for prayer or good behavior. Rather, it is a natural effect of our willingness to accept the gift of healing that has already been given to the mind that still believes it is split between dreams of fear and Love.

. . . [W]hen the mind is split there is need of healing. So the Thought that has the power to heal the split became a part of every fragment of the mind that still was one, but failed to recognize its oneness (W-pII.2.2:3-4).

Salvation is given; it is inherent. The question is, are we ready?

An extension of this understanding of salvation is that we are not called to fix the world’s many problems. We are not called to regimens of self-improvement. These projects, however worthy they appear on terms the world sets (I.e., do them or don’t do them), merely reinforce the illusion of separation. When we believe that we are personally responsible for salvation, then we are as far from salvation as it is possible to be.

This is why we sometimes say that A Course in Miracles is an invitation to a new relationship with perception. What appears broken or sick in the world is a symptom of the mind that still believes it can choose between war and peace, chaos and clarity, sacrifice and abundance.

But if only one option is real, then the choice cannot be meaningful. Truth is true, always (T-9.VIII.7:2).

Imagine you are hungry and I give you a plate full of bread and a plate that is empty. Please, I say. Help yourself to whichever meal you prefer. It is not a real choice! It is the illusion of choice.

That is what it means to believe that actions we take in the world can somehow save us from the world. The world and our lives in the world present only illusions of choice, not actual choice.

Salvation is undoing in the sense that it does nothing, failing to support the world of dreams and malice. Thus it lets illusions go. By not supporting them, it merely lets them quietly go down to dust (W-pII.2.3:1-3).

Can we see the illusion as an illusion? Are we learning to learn how to? That is our work as students of A Course in Miracles.

When what is false is revealed as false then what remains is what is true. When we no longer regard the world as a source of either suffering or salvation, and our self as the actor responsible for choosing one or the other, than what was hidden by the illusion of separation is revealed: the world becomes an “altar to the holy Name of God whereon His Word is written” (W-pII.3:4) and we become happy celebrants at this altar.

Really, this “altar” is a metaphor for stillness and open-mindedness. It is a metaphor for our willingness to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit’s call in our mind to stillness, open-mindedness and willingness.

When we answer that call – when we dwell in the quiet peace that the Holy Spirit naturally extends to any mind that consents to be Its host – then we glimpse the “glory given us by God” and become happy in a way that the world neither recongizes nor endorses (W-pII.2.4:3). We are – to borrow and maybe even reclaim a phrase – “born again.”

Here, A Course in Miracles utilizes a familiar image to help us understand what “born again” means. We are, in a metaphorical sense, returning to Eden – an initial state of happiness and unity in which there was only peace and no illusion of choice.

The grass is pushing through the soil, the trees and budding now, and birds have come to live within their branches. Earth is being born again in new perspective. Nigh has gone, and have come together in the light (W-pII.2.4:4-6).

This is the “happy dream” to which we are all called by our brothers and sisters which and from which we call to our brothers and sisters. Together, our voices rise in a song that shares with the world the return of creativity and freedom, the end of time and judgment, and the remembrance of God.

Salvation is the restoration of a natural and serious happiness to minds that did not know what happiness was, and so substituted their own ideas and images, which could not help being imperfect and fragmented because they arose from fragmentation. Separation begets separation. But the opposite is also true, wholeness begets wholeness.

Thus, our practice is one of no longer accepting the perceptions of the world which reinforce separation, individuality, competition and conflict. We do not fight those perceptions! We do not argue with those who yet hold and advance them. We merely let them go, knowing there is another way. We trust that letting go is the way the other way is revealed, and our trust is not misplaced. God does not make promises that go unkept.

Let us then devote ourselves to our shared rebirth in the Mind of God. Let us together create the new Eden merely by doing nothing to obstruct its creation and coming forth. In quiet stillness, let us join as one, and do nothing else but enjoy God’s Gift of happiness and peace.