That we have problems in the world perhaps goes without saying. We get a flat tire or we don’t have enough money to pay the mortgage or we can’t find a library book that’s due. A Course in Miracles does not deny our experience of problems like this, but it does suggest that we are trying to solve them in ways that do not lead to inner peace.
For example, if our tire is flat, and the spare is flat too, and our phone battery is dead, and it starts to rain, we are perhaps going to call the situation problematic. Inherent in calling it a problem is our idea of a solution: we need someone to help us fix the tire so we can get to where it’s dry (and plug in our phone).
At an even simpler level, if we say the problem is we are hungry, then the solution is that we must eat.
In other words, as soon as we judge something as “a problem,” we have expressed a preference for its solution.
The world asks but one question. It is this: “Of these illusions, which of them *is* true? Which ones establish peace and offer joy? And which can bring escape from all the pain of which this world is made?” Whatever form the question takes, its purpose is the same. It asks but to establish sin is real, and answers in the form of preference (T-27.IV.4:4-9).
The real problem with solutions on worldly terms to the world’s problems is that they are not solutions at all. We can fix the flat tire today but the spark plug is going to go tomorrow. The body is always hungry for something: food, water, sex, meditation, dancing, sleep, poetry and so forth.
The world’s solutions are not permanent but rather expressions of preference. I’d like to not be standing in the rain with a dead phone. I’d rather be writing poems in Vermont than teaching English in Massachusetts. And so forth.
None of that is to say that we can’t feed ourselves or enjoy our relationships or take care of our cars. We can and we should. But it is important to see how those things can never – of themselves – bring us to inner peace.
It is possible to have an answer to every problem the world offers right now. In fact, right now is the only time in which God’s answer is possible.
Jesus recognizes our quandary perfectly. On the one hand, the world in which we find ourselves as bodies is a place of endless and unsolvable conflict. Hence our problem-laden lives. On the other hand, God has given us the answer which means that we have no problems.
Thus it must be that time is not involved and every problem can be answered now. Yet it must also be that, in your state of mind, solution is impossible. Therefore, God must have given you a way of reaching another state of mind in which the answer is already there (T-27.IV.2:1-3).
That state of mind is the holy instant. When we are in the present moment, free of past worries and future fears, all our problems dissolve. Judgment always involves time: we compare the present to the past, find the present wanting, and so project an improved future.
Attempt to solve no problem but within the holy instant’s surety. For there the problem will be answered and resolved (T-27.IV.3:1-2).
How do we do this? First, we can ask for help. It is never a mistake to seek a little space of interior quiet and ask for help in seeing things differently. We can simply say to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, “I’m having a hard time here and if you can lend a little light in whatever form makes sense to you, that’d be great.”
Prayer can quiet troubled minds. It almost always reminds us that we are not in this alone.
The other thing that we can do is simply notice that we’re not in the holy instant. We want things to be different – a better car, a better phone, a better driving companion, whatever. We don’t beat ourselves up for that. We simply notice it. We give attention to the fact that we are in a place of separation, not atonement.
Those two steps almost always restore to us some measure of inner peace. Prayer and attention are witnesses to our deep willingness to be transformed, to give way to the light of Christ. In the end, that is the only answer: to accept that we are extensions of God’s love, the way roses and baby foxes and starlight are extensions of God’s love, and that this love has always been and will always be and so nothing – not even death – can affect it.
Yes, that seems to be far down the road. I get that. I feel that way too, a lot. But I can also tell you that as we deepen our practice and commitment, we begin to sense that peace is not far off at all. Rather, it is what we are in truth, and all we are doing now is remembering. At any moment – even this one if you want – you can experience all there is to know of God’s deep and abiding Love.