One of the things that A Course in Miracles has done for me is it has cleared some space in my mind. That’s kind of weird statement maybe – mind isn’t really bounded physically. But by practicing ACIM – studying the text and the lessons, following certain teachers whose practice most challenges and buttresses my own – there is some quiet that enters. There is some stillness.
For many years in my early and mid-twenties, I had aspirations of being a Buddhist. At the same time, I was deeply invested in Thomas Merton and other Christian mystics. Yet I was largely incapable of sitting still. And my mind was in constant motion. When I look back – I was in Burlington, VT in those days – I don’t know that I ever really sat still and just appreciated a flower, say. Or a sunset. Or a simple talk with a friend. The energy was always frenetic, always intense.
Even as I settled into adulthood – becoming a lawyer and journalist, a father and husband, a homeowner and all that – there was still a sort of craziness to my life. I had dreams of stillness but it was very hard to actually realize it. Even when I first began to practice ACIM – the daily lessons in particular – it was hard. The lessons would say devote fifteen or twenty minutes to this and I would get nervous! That’s a long time to sit still and think about one thing.
You know, we are who we are and it’s no good fighting it. I think part of the problem was that I was so invested in becoming. I couldn’t just accept that I had this interest in stillness that couldn’t manifest. I couldn’t just let it be the way it was. Why not? Because I had decided in advance who I had to be and what that being was going to look like. I was in my own way.
And that is what the course seems to have gently helped undo. It’s not that the thoughts aren’t there – and it’s not really that the desire to become something (a famous course teacher! the best student ever! this! that!) is gone – but that whatever “I” am is just not ruled by those energies any longer. There’s a lot of peace in just letting ourselves be crazy. I don’t know exactly how to tell you to do it, but if you can detach a bit and just watch your thoughts, it can be quite a relief. You see the stream of your thinking and you realize, “wow. No wonder I feel crazy all the time!”
The course teaches us that we aren’t these bodies but we aren’t these thoughts either. I think if you can get a little distance from what seems to be boiling in your brain, you’ll see that it’s true. And really, what happens then is that you encounter stillness – it becomes real for you. Thought drives us – we’re like hamsters on their wheels. But when you get into the space in which thought happens, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore. You aren’t bouncing from one crisis to the next, one challenge to the next. You aren’t stuck in an endless loop of problem-solving.
I spent a lifetime longing for that – the simplicity of quiet, of real stillness. And it came finally when I stopped trying to find it and simply became aware of what is. Through my practice of A Course in Miracles, I learned how to pay attention. And stillness was there waiting for me.