A Course in Miracles Lesson 216

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

And now we reach a central pillar in the new thought system we are invited to adopt. The secret to salvation – the secret which, once revealed, will end our suffering forever, as well as the suffering of the world – is that we are doing all of this to our own self (T-27.VIII.10:1). We are the author of fear; We are the architect of guilt. Not our neighbor, not parents, not the devil, and not fate.

We are. We are doing this to our own self.

But there is – thank Christ there is – another way.

All that I do I do unto myself. If I attack, I suffer. But if I forgive, salvation will be given me (W-pII.216.1:2-4).

To forgive is to do the opposite of attack; it is to become defenseless. This might sound nice – and a lot of us (I am certainly one) are happy to talk like we’ve figured it all out – but in truth it is very hard. Not for nothing is this a course in miracles.

Becoming defenseless is hard for at least two reasons. The first is, when we are feeling defensive, the last thing we want to do – and the last thing it feels like we can do – is just surrender all our claims to anger and judgment. It sounds nice, yes. It’s what our therapist suggests, yes. But in the deep places that logic doesn’t easily reach, no. We want to defend; we are meant to defend. And if that means attack, well, I didn’t make the system.

The second reason it’s hard – almost more intense that the first reason – is that we typically don’t recognize when we’ve gone into attack-and-defend mode until well after the fact. What good is hammering your sword into a plowshare after you’ve used it to harm another?

When we really go into our nature – when we really look at ourselves – what we see is so contrary to love and forgiveness that it can seem beyond hopeless to ever change it.

That is when we begin to reach the levels of desperation and intensity that fruitfully bring us to the Holy Spirit and, through that relationship, lead us back to our true self in Creation. In a sense, to truly go beyond crucifixion, we have to realize first our fantasy of being the one on the cross, our secret desire to be the one nailing another to the cross and, perhaps most frequently, the one who just casually observes at a distance.

ALL of those figures enable crucifixion! And we are called to go beyond them all, to a new way of being in the world that is premised on a Love so radical the world hides it beyond horrow shows like crucifixion, nuclear war and famine.

Let us give careful attention then to our inclination to accept crucifixion in every form it takes – self-suffering, other-suffering, and world-suffering – as inevitable and natural. Let us challenge ourselves to rise beyond suffering and death and discover what it means to be free of the body and thus to remember our inherent oneness with each other and our Creator.

←Lesson 215
Lesson 217→

Nonduality, A Course in Miracles and What We Are In Truth

I don’t know how it happened for you – finding and committing to A Course in Miracles. And I don’t know what happened when you did. All we can ever do is share about our own experience, being as clear and honest as possible, always willing to learn something new.

For me, I was searching for easy fixes to what felt like a persistent unhappiness. Things had been very bad in my late teens and early twenties – depression, suicidal ideation, active addiction, homelessness – but by the time was in my early forties the worst of that had passed. What remained was a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. “This isn’t it” but without a clear sense of what “it” was or what would help.

In those days I tried a lot of tools and modalities to address the problem. I went back to school and got a degree in creative writing. I studied and practiced energy healing. Did yoga, got craniosacral massages, talk therapy and tarot. I switched careers, then switched again. Spiritually, I was stuck. I’d finally left the Catholic church for good, but nothing had replaced it. I was lonely and adrift. Nothing was really working.

That was the space in which A Course in Miracles found me. Or I found it. The fit was instantaneous. There have been ups and downs for sure, but I have never seriously doubted that ACIM was the way for me.

What does that mean though: “the way?”

A Course in Miracles teaches me that I am not a body and the world is not real. It teaches me that forgiveness is not graciously agreeing to overlook harm done by another, nor even reframing that harm as some kind of psychological or spiritual error, but rather in learning how to not see the harm at all. Which, when you really go into it, can leave you foundering in existential crisis. Our minds are designed to judge! We are built to notice problems and fix them and then share the fixes. We are alive because of that skill! We have penicillin, air bags and twelve string guitars because of that skill. Even it was was desirable to stop analyzing, comparing and evaluating, how could we?

The course teaches me that our unhappiness – regardless of our perception of it as minor or major or somewhere in between – is an effect of our belief that separation is real. We believe we are separate from God, from Creation, from one another and even from our own self. And because we believe it, it seems real which, in essence, means it is real. Our beliefs shape our perception, and our perception reinforces the apparent accuracy of our beliefs.

In turn, those beliefs make a world – one which seems to be dominated by zero-sum thinking, endless conflict, and an eternal binary of us vs. them – or something vs. something – so that we are always either suffering, or about to suffer, or gaining a very temporary respite from suffering.

It’s not great. But there is another way.

For me, the first step in the solution proposed by ACIM is to discern between ego and Holy Spirit, both of which are in our mind. They are modes of perception that “speak” or give direction. They shape our perception, which guides our activity, which produces a world, which influences our perception, which . . .

The ego is the part of the mind that believes it is “in” a body, and is therefore subject to the body’s many vulnerabilities. Ego is basically an argument that the body’s adventures are our adventures and the body’s inevitable death will be our end as well. Ego is a great persuader, ever getting us to invest in guilt, fear and sacrifice. It is always raising the stakes and doubling down. When we listen to the ego, it feels like war and famine are at the door, that evil has or is just about to triumph over good, and that it is up to us to fix everything, even though it can’t actually be fixed.

Listening to – and living with – ego is painful, difficult, and full of despair.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit is simply our mind at rest. My Buddhist friends sometimes call it “right mind.” It is calm and quiet. It makes offers rather than arguments. It seeks consent rather than persuasion. It is calm and quiet, happily honoring our perception of self-will and agency. It does not trick us, fight with us or denigrate us. It speaks easily of what is true, and gently calls us to the contentedness and rest that are natural effects of remembering what we are in truth. Peace, not war, is its mode. It has no enemies.

We are happy, creative and engaged when we are listening to the Holy Spirit.

So it is good (in the sense of helpful) to discern between these two voices, these two ways of thinking. It’s also good to get a grip on the belief system that underlies them.

The more skillful we are at this discernment, then the better we will be able to answer the following important question: to whom do the Holy Spirit and ego communicate? You are not the ego, and you are not the Holy Spirit. You are that which they address.

What are you?

It’s no good having someone answer that question for us. The “answer” is basically a non-transferable experience. In the same way that if I eat a slice of bread, your hunger doesn’t go away, if I tell you what you are in truth, then you won’t actually realize anything. It’s just words; it’s just somebody else’s interpretation and opinion which can be accepted or rejected. We really have to come to the experience on our own. That’s the whole point.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that we share the Name of God (e.g, T-8.IX.7:3, W-pI.183.1:2, W-pII.266.1:5). The two religious traditions from whose confluence ACIM arises (Christianity and Advaita Vedanta), suggests that God’s “name” is not a word but an experience: “I AM.”

The suggestion is that when we seek to know God we are seeking Being itself before it dissipates in the specificity of form and language. Form and language are downstream of Being. Before the many distinctions, and the ways of identifying, categorizing and evaluating them, there is the One Being, call it what you will. It is this: this this.

In my experience, the function of the Holy Spirit – through the holy instant and holy relationship – is to guide us to a direct experience of “I AM.” Using means and tools – i.e., forms – that are individually meaningful for us, the Holy Spirit introduces us to the reality of Being, which we will eventually recognize as our own self. Everything in the world is dependent on this self for its existence – the moon and the sun, evolution and gravity, chocolate and fried chicken. Everything – from a child’s drawing to the Mona Lisa, from a quasar to a quark – is dependent on “I AM” – which is your own self – for its existence.

When we approach this from the perspective of is it right or is it wrong (which is how the world does approach it) – when we make it into an argument that can be won or lost – then it always ends up feeling like a loser. Am I really suggesting that the moon is dependent on me for its existence? That when I die every mother’s son dies also? Come on.

But the observation is simpler than that. From the perspective of “I AM” – which we might also call radical subjectivity – it’s not even worth arguing about. Of course the moon is dependent on the “I AM.” When that goes, everything goes with it. But, curiously, the “I AM” never dies. So far as it knows, it is eternal and infinite. When are you not here? How could you not be?

This is a fairly straightfoward take on nonduality in terms of contemporary expressions of Advaita Vedanta, especially popular cultural models such as Eckhart Tolle, Leo Hartong, Jeff Foster, et cetera. In my experience, most students of ACIM are aware of this frame and are relatively comfortable deploying it to explain and/or process their experience. And it’s not unhelpful.

But here’s the thing. Nisargadatta – who was not an ACIM student but whose insights into nonduality I have found very helpful – said that “I AM” is the first ignorance. It’s good to see it – indeed, he advocated giving attention only to “I AM” – but in and of itself it is simply another perceptual and cognitive error, albeit the first, or original, one. We can correlate this to a seminal concept in A Course in Miracles: “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh” (T-27.VIII.6:2).

“I AM” is the tiny, mad idea that we took seriously. From what does it arise? Against what does define itself? All the dreams, stories and images that have followed its appearance and presence – what is their actual origin? What is their relationship to their origin, whatever it is?

The invitation the Holy Spirit makes is to restore to our awareness “I AM.” When we rest in the “I AM,” we return to the moment of decision when we separated from the whole and took the separation seriously. Therefore the suggestion is to ask, over and over, from what did the “I AM” arise? It is an invitation to find our way back to the moment of decision at which we effectively parted ways with That-Which-Cannot-Be-Divided, which is also That-Which-Cannot-Be-Parted-From.

If you go into the “I AM” and stay with it, and if you seek to understand its origins, then eventually you will reach the void. You will reach the limits of your capacity for inquiry; you will reach the terminus of cognition and perception. You will reach an end that is not the end. We do not know what we do not know. Imagination and study and everything personal ground out here. “I AM” is something but what it arises from cannot be articulated or described in any way which means that it’s nothing, no thing, “no-thing-ness,” the void.

Whatever that is, the “I AM” is dependent on it.

Whatever that is, that is what you are.

And whatever that is, we cannot – in anything other than a highly politicized, highly spiritualized way, which is to say highly relative way – speak of it.

Abhishiktananda (a Christian monk who moved to India to integrate Christianity and Advaita Vedanta) used the metaphor of the baby. An infant is born and lives but its sense of “I AM” does not appear until later in its development. Like, when did “YOU” suddenly appear? On the world’s logic, it was after your body appeared. But the “I AM” isn’t there at the beginning. Only later does it appear. You can look back and find scenes – flashes or glimpses – of the “I AM” coming online. And then it is there, fully. So ask: how did “you” live before the “I AM?” Before all of this – this this – what were you? How did you live?

Clearly you didn’t need the “I AM.”

Or you can ask it this way: how does a flower live without “I AM?”

When you do this, you start to see how “I AM” is dependent. It’s not first. It’s not creative – e.g., the source of all things. Rather, it is a limit on Creation. Upon what it depends we can’t say (though we will surely try) but that’s okay. What matters is that we see – truly and deeply, beyond doubt – its dependency. That seeing, that knowing, is what teaches us that whatever we are, we are not “I AM.”

I think in that sense, A Course in Miracles is not especially Christian. That was always Ken Wapnick’s argument and I have generally disagreed with that argument, because it is framed so bluntly and dogmatically in terms of gnosticism. What I am talking about here is more of a Vedantic move. Abhishiktananda finally concluded that one could not claim to be either Christian or a Vedantan if they were serious about remembering what they were in truth. One had to let it all go. The means by which we reach that juncture can vary (Hinduism, Catholicism, ACIM, whatever), but the letting go Itself . . . that is like falling in love. We all do it, we all know how to do it, but nobody can do it for us. It’s deeply and naturally intimate. To let go, to paraphrase Abhishiktananda, means to take up residence in the Cave of the Heart, where neither perception nor cognition can enter.

The critical insight here is not to be able to make a scholarly argument or to coach others on their remembrance of nonduality – both of which are ultimately just forms of the lovelessness of “I get it and you don’t” – but rather to come to a natural and serious happiness for our own self in our own way which is already given. When we finally remember what we are in truth, then our so-called problems are solved and we no longer mind what happens. A Course in Miracles was for me – and remains – deeply helpful in this regard. I wish the same for all students.

A Course in Miracles Lesson 215

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

As Creations of a Loving God, we are Love Itself (e.g., (W-pI.67.6:4). The body is not love! The body is merely an aspect of our physical experience, much like the world (T-2.IV.3:8). Love is an abstraction; Love is a law. To effectively remember this, we have to come to a different state of being, one that is receptive and open, and unafraid of radical shifts in perception and thought.

That shift is challenging and in no small part requires a miracle.

One way to do this – a way particularly favored by A Course in Miracles – is to come to gratefulness, and to dwell there. When we are grateful, we are very near to Love. When gratitude informs our decision-making, the world appears differently. Our problems are less problematic; they become more like lessons that we learn. Every situation becomes a way of connecting with our brothers and sisters in order to remember together our shared innocence.

The only way for us to do this is to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit. And not a casual relationship. We need to be honest in our sharing and disciplined in our listening. We need to be good dialogue partners and we need good dialogues. It has to be an all-in relationship. Only then will we realize the holiness that is our inheritance.

The Holy Spirit is my only Guide. He walks with me in love. And I give thanks to Him for showing me the way to go (W-pII.215.1:2-4).

We are invited to take this very literally! If we are unsure about whether to go out with friends later, we can ask the Holy Spirit should we go. If we are confused about an ACIM lesson, we can ask the Holy Spirit for clarification. If we’re struggling to fall to sleep, we can ask the Holy Spirit for helpful suggestions.

Accordingly, the Holy Spirit’s responses can be very literal and, to our prejudiced mind, insufficiently spiritual. Drink less coffee. You need to rest, not party. Reread the first sentence of the lesson and stay with it. The form of the answer becomes an extension of love in a mind willing to remember – and extend – love, without insisting it knows better.

Father, a miracle reflects Your gifts to me, Your Son. And every one I give returns to me, reminding me the law of love is universal. Even here, it takes a form which can be recognized and seen to work (W-pII.345.1:1-3).

The Holy Spirit wants to help us here and now. It is a fascinating and sometimes confusing aspect of A Course in Miracles that is teaches us from within separation and illusion how to undo separation and illusion. It is as bodies in a world that we learn we are not bodies and there is no world.

This helpful guidance – and the liberation to which it ultimately points – both inspires and is sustained by gratitude. When we realize how clearly and directly the Holy Spirit guides us, we naturally become grateful. Our gratitude makes it possible to bring to the Holy Spirit increasingly challenging “problems” because we are confident we will not be left alone with them.

How do I love someone I actually hate? How do I forgive this person who murdered my child/raped me/botched my father’s surgery? What if I don’t want to be happy? These seem harder, which is not a crisis. The Holy Spirit is a gentle and patient teacher.

Gratitude is the hand we hold as we go into the seemingly impossible questions and quandaries. Love is the answer we are given, by the Teacher who will not abandon us, because he speaks for Love.

←Lesson 214
Lesson 216→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 214

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

Time is a symptom of the adverse effects of separation. It witnesses unto a mind that believes it is irretrievably yoked to a body.

Love waits on welcome, not on time, and the real world is but your welcome of what always was. Therefore the call of joy is in it, and your glad response is your awakening to what you have not lost (T-13.VII.9:7-8).

Have not lost and, also, could not lose.

When we let go of the future, we also let go of the past. When we intentionally decide to let God choose the future for us, we effectively step out of time altogether. The holy instant is a moment of perfect communication because it liberates experience from past conditioning and future anxiety and worry (T-15.IV.6:5). Not for nothing did Jesus ask his early followers who amongst them could add a hair to their head through fretting about tomorrow.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).

A Course in Miracles emphasizes that it is time that makes worry and anxiety even possible. Undo time, and worry and anxiety are naturally undone.

Can you imagine what it means to have no cares, no worries, no anxieties, but merely to be perfectly calm and quiet all the time? Yet that is what time is for; to learn just that and nothing more (T-15.I.1:1-2).

This is a call to live only in the present moment, in which one’s cares are given to God, and one’s service to their brothers and sisters is maximized accordingly. In the world, it is folly to stop planning for the future by reflecting on the past. But A Course in Miracles urges a new way of relating to time, one that upends our the world’s conception of time as a linear progression and its reliance on time as a means of organizing our living.

This is a psychological statement! There is no expectation that we will not, say, agree to meet at 2 p.m. for coffee. Or that if our dentist says come in on Wednesday, we just waltz in on Saturday.

Rather, it is a way of relating to those appointments and, by extension, to time. It is a way of saying that true value does not arise as an effect of time but rather of a commitment to what A Course in Miracles here calls “good.”

. . . what God gives can only be for good. And I accept but what He gives as what belongs to me (W-pII.214.1:4-5).

This is an implicit reference to our capacity for service – to focus on the well-being of our brothers and sisters, seeking always a way of living that liberates them from fear and worry, guilt and anger. When we make the other’s happiness our objective, our happiness manifests with surprising ease. It’s like all along we thought happiness and peace were something to be gained. In fact, they are gifts that we receive BY giving them.

If we are honest, we know what peace looks like. We know what love looks like. We are scared of it, maybe. Maybe we still think we can find a way to be happy in the world without God.

But sooner or later, we all reach that juncture (often in utter desperation, as a kind of spiritual bottom) where we have no options or resources left and so we come open-handed, open-hearted and open-minded unto God and say, “you do it. I cannot.” As the course says, to be “born again” means simply to “let time go in order to look without condemnation upon the present” (T-13.VI.3:5).

When that is our prayer, and when our prayer is honest and sincere, then past and present lose their stranglehold on us, both in terms of being haunted by memories and in terms of the conditioning that seems to drive us to seek more than we need, often at the expense of others. We stop caring about the future because we are no longer afraid of the past. We know there is another way, and we are following it.

When we are free of both the future and the past, then we are also free of our identity with and as a body. Time is a construct of the body; the world that we project reflects the body’s interests. When our thinking shifts to align with God, Who is Love, and as forgiveness replaces self-interest and illusion, then we naturally realize our identity in and as Creation itself. We are no longer separate from our Creator. And our happiness becomes boundless.

←Lesson 213
Lesson 215→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 213

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

When we are ready to learn with the Holy Spirit, then everything that occurs becomes a lesson teaching us that the separation is a lie, reality remains untouched and unharmed, and we – along with all our brothers and sisters – are one with God, Who is Love.

In other words, nothing is wasted. Everything has a function, and the function is always to heal the mind of those believe they are separate from Creation.

The Holy Spirit always seeks to unify and heal. As you heal you are healed, because the Holy Spirit sees no order of difficulty in healing. Healing is the way to undo the belief in differences, being the only way of perceiving the Sonship as one (T-7.IV.5:3-5).

When we believe the separation is real – when we fall for the lie that we have separate interests, are competing with one another for scarce resources, and that death is the end of us – we are hurting ourselves. We are accepting the idea that differences are valuable and thus real, which is false and, because it is false, painful. There is – there is always – another way.

A lesson is a miracle which God offers to me, in place of thoughts I made that hurt me. What I learn of Him becomes the way I am set free. And so I choose to learn His lessons and forget my own (W-pII.213.1:4-7).

Miracles are shifts at the level of mind away from fear and towards love. But they always occur in a context! Maybe we have a quiet exchange with an old friend, healing a wound from years ago. Maybe we remember something about a deceased parent and understand them better and feel grateful and loving.

The suggestion is, every moment of our lives – every encounter, every thought, every memory, every circumstance – can becomes for a moment of healing. We let something go that blocked our awareness of love, and we become naturally happier because Love reaches our awareness with greater ease and fluidity.

There is no remedy the world provides that can effect a change in anything. The mind that brings illusions to the truth is really changed. There is no change but this (W-pI.140.7:3-5).

Again, the emphasis in this sequence of lesson includes our willingness. We have to want to learn this way of being and, just as critically, we have to understand that we are not the teacher but the student. Finally, we need to effectively discern between the Holy Spirit and ego, because it is only the Holy Spirit who can teach us anything helpful.

Ego hurts us; the Holy Spirit helps. On that basis, let us turn then to him, and ask to be shown this new way of being present in the world, that we might all be restored to peace and happiness.

←Lesson 212
Lesson 214→

A Course in Miracles Lesson 212

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

Awakening is not merely conceptual; it is active. it is lived. The Atonement was – and is – an act of love (T-2.II.4:3). In the context of separation, there is work we are called to do to help undo separation – both for us and for all our brothers and sisters. Who we are is not unrelated to our function. Identity and function intersect, the one bringing forth and making possible the other.

What is our function? What is the “activity” to which we are called?

One way A Course in Miracles frames the answer is that our function is to “love in a loveless place” (T-14.IV.4:10).

Atonement becomes real and visible to those who use it. On earth this is your only function, and you must learn that it is all you want to learn. You will feel guilty till you learn this (T-14.IV.3:6-8).

Sometimes we get lost in the metaphysics of bodies and worlds. We think that taking action in a dream is meaningless. In an absolute sense, we are correct. It is. But in the context of the dream, it can be very meaningful and – when guided by the lessons we learn in A Course in Miracles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is in our “right mind” (T-5.I.3:3) – can help to undo the dream.

Our work is to seek – with humility, perseverance and even cheerfulness – to know that our will and God’s are not separate but united and then to no longer indulge the fantasy of separation.

When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort, and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer (T-14.IV.6:1-2).

We want this ease! We want this grace! And to get it, we simply have to resign as the author of experience. We have to decide to no longer decide without first consulting the Holy Spirit. When we are aligned with the part of our mind that is naturally aligned with God, then the way to remembrance is quick and sure.

We do not have to decide in advance what this will look like. Indeed, that is the impediment – our decision before we act what the effects ought to be. But A Course in Miracles calls us to a different approach. It calls us to accept God’s love first and then to trust that whatever follows will be precisely what we, and all our brothers and sisters, and the world itself, need.

Again, we are choosing to no longer rely on our own judgment. We don’t judge the external situation as it is, and we don’t judge what it needs. We leave all outcomes to the One who does know, and whose judgment is perfect. This is all we seek and we will accept no other gift (W-pII.212.1:4).

This is not a doing! It is a decision to not do. And yes, understanding the distinction can take time. It can take practice. But let us today offer a space of stillness and quiet to the Holy Spirit so that we might see in a clear and actionable way how we are to fulfill our function today.

And let us remember as well that our function and identity are one. We are called to love in a loveless place because we are love. We are called to love in a space of darkness and deceit because we are light. And all we have to do to make it so is do nothing.

←Lesson 211
Lesson 213→