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The Cause of Inner Peace Is Internal

In a sense, we are making a concerted effort – and effort is the right word – to separate our internal condition from what is happening externally. This is easier said than done, but it is very important. We have to perceive them as different orders of reality.

When I was half-assing around with Zen Buddhism in the late ’80’s, one of the teachers with whom I did a workshop, said that to be enlightened was to be happy and content regardless of what was happening in our lives. You get robbed and lose everything and you remain gently and quietly peaceful. You win the lottery and remain gently and quietly peaceful. Cool ideal, I thought, but a little naive.

Of course, she was right. But it took me a couple of decades to even entertain that possibility.

That experience of inner peace – unshakable, unchanging – is learned! We work towards it. As students of A Course in Miracles we need always remind ourselves that the true cause of inner peace is not external. Rather, it is a decision that we make internally. And “internally” in this context does not mean inside our brains or our bodies.

A natural consequence of deciding to be separate from God – from what is, from our natural condition of perfectly clear and flowing love – is denial and projection. That split is terrifying and we cannot bear the fear so we deny it. We push it down. And we need to blame someone for the grief we have come to: hence the world. Hence the body. Hence other bodies.

The metaphysics of this can be mind-boggling but it’s not critical to reason them out. In fact, getting obsessed with course metaphysics is often just a subtle form of resistance.

At the simplest level – and it is a very effective level, too – we are simply asking: am I at peace? And if the answer is no, then we need to make another choice. We need to “see peace instead of this (W-pI.34). And we need to realize that it is our decision to do so.

This decision is independent of the external conditions in which we seem to find ourselves: in a bad job, in a bad relationship, too many demands from here and there, whatever. Good or bad, doesn’t matter. What is external is a reflection and nothing more. It yields no effect but what we give it.

Thus, we make a great deal of progress when we begin to accept responsibility for our own inner condition. What the course calls the ego – the false self that decides against peace and for separation – demands that we remain in blame mode, always seeing the cause of our inner state as “out there.” Merely raising the logic of its methods to light can be immensely healing.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Bet Carbery July 21, 2013, 7:26 am

    Isn’t it a case of not necessarily being happy or joyful but of being peaceful or, failing that, accepting what is so we don’t create further layers of rubbish. So if we’re lost or in pain as it were, accepting we’re lost and it’s OK to be lost. Then perhaps happiness will come later, for in accepting what is we create a space for something new to arise – possibly!
    As Echart Tolle says accepting the isness of now.
    This seems to work for me when I don’t panic and remember.

    • Sean Reagan July 23, 2013, 4:09 pm

      Hi Bet,

      Yes, that makes sense. In a way, I think the peace contemplated by the course – and related spiritual traditions – is actually independent of what we consider happy or unhappy. This as always Tara Singh’s point: we aren’t going to get anywhere with ACIM until we just let the externals go. It doesn’t matter what we think or feel, we just have to give up paying any attention to the external as a cause. Once that becomes a habit, then we are able to begin to work on the unchanging peace & love that is our inherency.

      Lately my focus has begun to shift considerably. I find myself devoting more and more time to simply being attentive: regardless of what else is going on. A year ago I would have said I am more attentive on my dog walks or while writing but increasingly it is simply the attention itself that matters. It is a kind of letting go, a kind of surrender, perhaps akin to Tolle’s observation that we need to accept the “isness” of the present moment. In another thread, a reader is making very much this point: ACIM is directing us to an experience of the present that is fundamental to awakening.

      I resonate very much, by the way, with that idea of not panicking and remembering. That, too, has become a sort of hallmark of my practice: remembering that I have one and that it works!

      I hear you.

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