Enlightened in a year? Think again.

In A Course in Miracles, the Workbook contains 365 lessons, one for each day of the year (not necessarily starting at January 1), with the purpose of transforming the theoretical basis of the Textbook into everyday experience. The general idea is that if you internalize and practice the Workbook perfectly, you’ll be enlightened. “Doing” the Workbook correctly is one way of deciding once and for all to fire the ego as teacher, and to assign the Holy Spirit as the only Teacher for the rest of your days on this planet. In the Workbook epilogue, after lesson 365, Jesus advocates his students to “Henceforth, hear but the Voice for God and for your Self when you retire from the world, to seek reality instead. […] And now I place you in His hands, to be His faithful follower, with Him as Guide through every difficulty and all pain that you may think is real. […]” (W-Ep.3). And a little before that: “No more specific lessons are assigned, for there is no more need of them.”

On the other hand, in the same epilogue Jesus makes it clear that having gone through the Workbook is merely the beginning of awakening: “This course is a beginning, not an end. […] In peace we will continue in His way, and trust all things to Him. […] You do not walk alone. […] His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure: that I will never leave you comfortless”. (W-Ep.1). Apparently, after finishing the workbook there’s still work to do. The Workbook is the gateway to your experiencing the Awakening process once you pass through it, but that’s not the same as being enlightened.

So what is enlightenment according to A Course in Miracles? The word itself isn’t often used, but it’s synonymous with the experience of what Jesus calls the real world. This is a state of mind wherein all judgment and condemnation has been laid aside, all illusions and false idols have been brought to truth (i.e., seen for what they are), all projections and defenses have been withdrawn, and no separation from any living thing is yet perceived any more. The ultimate consequence of such a state of mind (and a most horrible one from the ego’s point of view) is that united Being is finally preferred to individualized existence. What!? Experiencing the real world means that you are in no way attached any longer to your individual consciousness. The rest of your time spent in the duality of time and space is solely to gladly and freely help certain captive souls to whom you feel called to by the Holy Spirit.

If anyone talks to me about a friend who’s said to be ‘totally enlightened’, I can’t help but wonder if that really means the state described above. Certainly there are known cases of such people. We call them bodhisattvas; but these are so rare that its attainment can hardly be called a practical goal to most of us. Reaching the real world is usually a slow process that can take up to several lifetimes to reach. Jesus notes in the Manual: “There are those who are called upon to change their life situation almost immediately, but these are generally special cases. By far the majority are given a slowly evolving training program, in which as many previous mistakes as possible are corrected.” (M-9.1:7) “Slowly evolving” obviously implies that our practice will take many, many years, and Jesus certainly doesn’t expect us to do the Workbook perfectly in one time. Nor does he want us to feel guilty about that!

In several places in the Textbook and Workbook, Jesus gently though sternly points to the fact that almost all of us are novices at sustained mind concentration. One famous quote from the Textbook is “You are much too tolerant of mind wandering, and are passively condoning your mind’s miscreations.” (T-2.VI.4:6). In lesson 95 in the Workbook, we read “It is difficult [at this point] not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You have surely realized this by now. You have seen the extent of your lack of mental discipline, and of your need for mind training. It is necessary that you be aware of this, for it is indeed a hindrance to your advance.” So be assured that Jesus wouldn’t mind at all if you practice a mind training technique such as Presencing, Mindfulness, or Transcendental Meditation (TM). Most of us, including many ACIM students, have yet to experience what it means to be absolutely without mental thought, even for a minute. Just try it; if you’re not already familiar with the abovementioned techniques, you’ll find it almost impossible.

The point, again, is not to feel guilty about our spiritual infancy. Yes, we really want enlightenment; we really want to experience the real world. But if we are truly honest, we also want our ego’s cake. We want those special things that make us feel good about our day, about our actions, about our achievements. And we still have a long list of things, situations and people that we dislike or detest. We have a conflicted mind! ACIM teaches us to become aware of the part of our mind that Ken Wapnick calls the decision maker. It’s the part of our mind that Jesus really addresses whenever he uses the word ‘you’ in ACIM.  Turning on the decision maker, from above the battleground, that is, without any emotional involvement, that is, from a neutral point of view, allows us to see just how conflicted our minds really are, every minute of the day. This is not bad news; it’s the best news you can hear on your journey to the real world. If we feel we truly want to undo the illusory ego, we must make sure we first realize in full that undoing the ego actually means saying “not no” to the Oneness wherein all individuality disappears, whereas in the ontological instant just before time and space began, the ego said “no” to Oneness. We are still attached to that “no” every minute of every hour, no matter how eager we seem to be about enlightenment.

If you are truly honest about wanting to experience the real world, then resign as your own teacher (for you were badly taught), and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through your daily practice. As I repeatedly emphasize in my book “Miracles or Murder“, the principle of “Letting go, letting come” ought to be a central one in your days in time and space. Many Course students can verily attest to the experience that the more they succeed in letting go and letting come, the happier their days seem to be. So please don’t rush enlightenment, and don’t expect to do the Workbook perfectly in one year, or even in ten years.

Remember, in reality time and space are already over, and nothing happened to shatter the peace of the Son of God, the divine Identity we all share as the collective Sonship, which includes you and me, friend and foe alike, in fact every living thing. And of this be sure: it is no illusion to love your brother like yourself. Forgive him for what he never did in reality anyway, and you will have forgiven yourself the illusions of your unforgiving mind. Lessons 61 to 66 teach us that we are the light of the world if we so choose; forgiveness is our only function, and our function and happiness are not only related: they are one. So forgive and be happy, and learn to see every trial and setback in your life as another opportunity to learn a lesson (offered by the Holy Spirit) that you had previously failed to learn. Learn to interpret any apparent attack as the desperate call for Love that it is. With the “letting go, letting come” attitude we simply cannot fail.

 

 

 

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10,000 years won’t save your life

Hammock are an American ambient rock band. On their critically acclaimed 2012 album “Departure songs”, one of the more pivotal tracks is called “10,000 years won’t save your life”. If you haven’t already heard it, you can find it on YouTube. In this song, we hear an angelic female voice repeatedly asserting “It takes so long for you to realize: 10,000 years won’t save your life”, accompanied by a heart-wrenching, agonizing scream of a little ego. At first listen, it may sound like psychedelic nonsense, but I think the song is highly relevant for all students of A Course in Miracles. Have a listen and consider!

While Jesus in ACIM does not take a definite stand on reincarnation, it is clearly implied in several places in the Textbook, and most clearly in the Manual for Teachers (M-24: “Is reincarnation so?”). Moreover, in one of Gary Renard’s first books, Pursah treats Gary on a mind-blowing experience of his various reincarnations throughout time and space. But even though the reality of reincarnation is irrelevant from Jesus’ point of view (since everything in the dream of time and space is illusory), it does illustrate his fundamental question to all of us: “Why wait for Heaven? Why keep choosing death [i.e., the ego’s lies of separation]?”.

Physical death is an experience the sleeping Son of God has invented as clear proof that our separation from God has actually succeeded. If death is real, then God is not. If we can prove that we can choose to die and reincarnate, then we are the lord of life and death, not God. Yes, we exist on our own! We did it! And we’ll continue to prove it! And so we reincarnate zillions of times, over and over again, in a hopeless quest to seek and keep real autonomy in an illusory nightmare, wherein in each life we keep walking uncertain, lonely and in constant fear, in a world “where starved and thirsty creatures come to die”. (W -section 13: what is a miracle?)

The bottom line of the song, and of Jesus’ message is: 10,000 years of reincarnation is not going to save our individual autonomy! Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. (T-2.III.3) This recognition becomes the turning point: slowly we realize that 10,000 years of reincarnation, of stubbornly insisting we know better than God and we will oppose his will forever, of wanting to be right rather than happy, simply won’t work. We’ll be happier if we resign as our own teacher (for we were badly taught) and start choosing to forego condemnation and practice forgiveness, guided by intuition (HS). So Jesus in effect says in A Course in Miracles: “Why wait for Heaven?” (W-131). 10,000 years of stubbornness won’t save your life because there is no life in time and space; there is no life outside God. To attain lasting inner peace, we need do nothing, except not interfere with the voice of the Holy Spirit, the voice for God.

Try Hammock’s “10,000 years won’t save your life” and recognize the HS in the angelic voice and your own ego in the agonizing ego voice in resistance to that. This is what we do day in, day out, life in, life out. Let us be thankful that not only we are wrong and Jesus is right, but that the practice of “letting go, letting come” will gently lead us Home where our Creator would have us be; we will discard our reincarnation compulsion forever.


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

“Miracles or murder” has been endorsed by Gary Renard and Cindy Lora-Renard: “Jan-Willem’s book is a wonderful summary and recap of the key concepts in A Course in Miracles, furthering one’s understanding and meaning behind this non-dualistic teaching. All the essential elements are brought together with the author pointing out a key theme in the Course, which is the understanding and practice of true Forgiveness. We highly recommend this book as a helpful complement to the teachings of the Course.”

This blog aims at further clarifying the message of this guidebook. It is hoped this will help to speed up your spiritual journey Home.

Seek not outside yourself.

“Seek not outside yourself. For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol falls. Heaven cannot be found where it is not.” (T-29.VII.1). We are all very good at distracting our minds from looking within. It’s a double shield against terror: (1) if I honestly look inside, I’d realize that all the “wrongs” I perceive outside are merely projections of my own perceived sinfulness and guilt over having rejected God (i.e., I am in effect a miserable sinner, unworthy of any love); and (2) once I discover my right mind and experience the real world, I’d realize that duality and individuality don’t work and that my ego, the only voice I have been listening to all my life, is nothing but flimsy illusion. Hence the reasons why we do not seek for salvation inside, however much we tell ourselves we want peace and love. The last thing Jesus in A Course in Miracles wants is to have us feel guilty over this; but he does invite us to look frankly at what’s happening. That’s a prerequisite for finally changing our mind and choosing love once again.

The distraction strategies take on many forms. For example, we all know well-meaning people that we’d label as “world menders”. They are constantly on the lookout for all the wrongs in the world and spend seemingly inexhaustible effort in organizing improvement and, above all, persecuting the “evil-doers”. After all, the world is seriously at risk and they have a major pivotal role in saving it. Rarely do they spend time in looking inside at their own judgments and condemnations.

Another form of distraction is much more individualized. I once read a book about NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming, a personal development thought system) which included an astounding example of personal goal setting. One man had made a long list of all the things he would really like to accomplish in life, from climbing the Mount Everest to learning to play “Clair de Lune” by Debussy. He spent the next thirty years of life accomplishing all these goals, step by step. At the time of publication of the book, he had actually completed 85% of his list. It didn’t say if he was any happier than thirty years before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some sense of lack or emptiness still kept nagging somewhere in the back of his mind. There may just have been an unconscious mechanism at work here: a fear of looking within and having to face what would be found there. To be sure, in ACIM we read that it’s not at all a pretty place deep inside our (wrong) mind, but together with the Holy Spirit we can happily choose otherwise, exchanging illusion for truth: “Together we have the lamp that will dispel it [the ego]” (T-11.V.1).

And then there are, of course, what Ken Wapnick calls the “blissninnies”, who tell themselves that since all darkness is illusion anyway, we should only focus on the love that is inherently real in all of us. If we focus is consistently on love, peace and understanding, then that’s what we will materialize in our lives. While there’s nothing wrong with such a focus in itself, Jesus makes it abundantly clear in both Textbook and Workbook that if we do not at the same time look at this black cauldron that is the “iceberg below the watershed”, i.e., our unconscious mind, the ego will never be undone; we will at some point sigh and complain that all the positive affirmations are simply feathers on the wind of this cruel world.

As a final example, ubiquitous forms of distraction (or spiritual procrastination) include all the special relationships that we maintain and nurture to contribute to a “little more light in the world”. These can be people, possessions, hobbies or other activities. Especially when these pursuits become compulsive (i.e., you spend a disproportionate amount of time and/or focus on it), it’s a sure sign that there’s some form of resistance at work: we’ll do anything to keep ourselves from looking within, afraid of what we might find. We keep seeking outside ourselves, no matter how many times an idol falls. Nothing lasts, and disillusion is an inherent part of duality, the state in which we experience our illusory autonomy and individuality, as many spiritual sages assert (read, for example, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi or Jiddu Krishnamurti).

Should we then give up all activity in this illusory dualistic world and retreat in contemplative meditation until the cluttered mind finally clears up? Should we renounce the world and spend our days solely in achieving Self-realization? Certainly not! As ACIM emphasizes, it’s “not necessary even to believe in God to any recognizable extent, but it is necessary that you teach forgiveness rather than condemnation.” (P-2.II.1) This means learning to hear the voice of The Holy Spirit, which is more or less your voice of intuition, and act on it. You can be sure that if you let your mind be guided by intuition (Holy Spirit), you will be very active in this world, since you have now accepted the physical world as the classroom that is perfectly suited to unwind your ego step by step. You will be truly helpful to the seemingly separated individuals who are meant to cross your path. And what’s most important, you will slowly come to realize that the more you succeed in giving up judgment and practice the “letting go, letting come” principle, the more peaceful your days become. And that‘s no illusion.


miraclesormurdertitle3601

Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

“Miracles or murder” has been endorsed by Gary Renard and Cindy Lora-Renard: “Jan-Willem’s book is a wonderful summary and recap of the key concepts in A Course in Miracles, furthering one’s understanding and meaning behind this non-dualistic teaching. All the essential elements are brought together with the author pointing out a key theme in the Course, which is the understanding and practice of true Forgiveness. We highly recommend this book as a helpful complement to the teachings of the Course.”

This blog aims at further clarifying the message of this guidebook. It is hoped this will help to speed up your spiritual journey Home.

Practical metaphysics

Many popular contemporary spiritualities focus on the experience of universal Oneness, a universal state of unconditional Love. This is then viewed as the “highest potential of humankind”, to be reached by developing a consistent focus on positivism, compassion, sharing, and the voice of the Inner Teacher what will lead the aspirant there.

At a first glance, A Course in Miracles seems to fit right in. After all, at the end of the text, the very last line, we read that at the end of our spiritual journey “we have reached where all of us are one, and we are home, where You [God] would have us be.” (T-31.VIII.12) What many people tend to skip in A Course in Miracles is its focus on the black cauldron we call our ego, why and how it came to be (or better: seemed to come to be) and why we still cling to it. Many people spend a lifetime trying to repress their ego, and sigh at the end of their earthly life that it’s just not possible to get rid of it, however disciplined the spiritual practice might have been. They never realized that they really did not want to get rid of it!

What makes A Course in Miracles unique as a spiritual system is its uncompromising metaphysics concerning time, space, and our concept of self. In order to experience Oneness, we’ll have to give up individuality, separation and judgement entirely. Oneness and duality simply cannot both be real. That’s why Oneness is synonymous with non-duality. If we want Oneness, we’ll have to seriously consider the notion that it may not be possible to have individuality as well – and that this would be preferable, too! Again, many spiritualities seek to combine Oneness and individual consciousness. ACIM tells us this is, in the end, impossible.

In effect, A Course in Miracles states that you and I as individuals do not really exist – the separation from Oneness into multitudinous forms of life never really happened. Time and space are unreal. Even the concept of consciousness, where a subject is aware of an object, aware of something not itself, is completely illusory. The Big Bang, some 13 billion years ago, has been the start of a mad dream (nightmare) of separation and fragmentation into time and space, and nothing more. ACIM concludes that true salvation is the realization that this world of time and space is not our Home. Our true Home is outside of time, space, and outside of consciousness. This can only be reached by giving up all concepts; not with regret, but with a sigh of relief.

Spiritualities that glorify the beauty of the world, of our minds, of relationships, without honestly looking what’s really going on in the unconscious iceberg of the mind below the watershed, merely serve to keep us in a state of amnesia. According to ACIM, if we want to find the everlasting state of unconditional Love and the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding”, we’ll have to look at how much we do not want to give up our individual consciousness. And let’s be honest, you and I have no clue of what life is like without an awareness of an individual self. Individuality & autonomy are everyone’s priority #1, no matter how spiritual we think we are.

The really refreshing and innovative aspect of A Course in Miracles is that it doesn’t deny our experiences in time and space. At first this might seem contradictory, but when delving into ACIM’s concept of mind, we see how this works. All of us share the same mind, which has four aspects: the wrong mind, the right mind, the decision maker, and the One Mind. Before the Big Bang seemed to be, there was only the One Mind, which is our Home for eternity when time and space will cease to seem to be. The other aspects of mind can more or less be seen as quantum possibilities, or dream scenarios.

The decision maker in the mind chooses between the wrong mind and the right mind, which we each also share. We each seem to have a highly individualized ego (“wrong mind”), but its mechanisms are universal around the world: it’s geared towards survival, towards separation, towards autonomy, towards creating a kingdom of its own. This is what you and I have been doing all our lives and are still doing each instant of the day. The “right mind” is activated when we let go of condemnation (which is the meaning of taking Jesus’ hand or allowing the Holy Spirit in) and practice unconditional forgiveness. For this, the idea that we are of the same pure Spirit must at least in part be acceptable and accepted.

The Textbook of ACIM makes us see (granted, only with diligent study and abundant willingness) that below the surface we are all “uncertain, lonely and in constant fear”, walking in a “dry and dusty place where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W-341). Until we learn to see this, no spirituality is ever going to take us home to Oneness Love. In ACIM, this does not lead to depression, but to the joy of realizing that everything in time and space is illusory and that we are, in reality, still safe at Home in non-duality; we merely need to awaken.

The Workbook of ACIM trains our minds to reconsider all our values, beliefs and concepts. It paves the way for living the notion of “letting go, letting come“, through the practice of unconditional forgiveness that is the royal road to lasting inner peace; not only in this lifetime, but in all your future lifetimes as well. We’re told in ACIM  that honestly practicing true forgiveness can save us thousands of years of suffering. And who wouldn’t want that?

Many ACIM students come to realize by practicing what Jesus advocates, the inner peace manifests itself in many aspects of their lives. The journey Home is not reached by focusing on Love, but by undoing the barriers we erected against Love. For this, we need to look at our minds. We need to shift from mindlessness to mindfulness, which ACIM trains us to do in a delightful gentle manner.


 

miraclesormurdertitle3601

Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

“Miracles or murder” has been endorsed by Gary Renard and Cindy Lora-Renard: “Jan-Willem’s book is a wonderful summary and recap of the key concepts in A Course in Miracles, furthering one’s understanding and meaning behind this non-dualistic teaching. All the essential elements are brought together with the author pointing out a key theme in the Course, which is the understanding and practice of true Forgiveness. We highly recommend this book as a helpful complement to the teachings of the Course.”

This blog aims at further clarifying the message of this guidebook. It is hoped this will help to speed up your spiritual journey Home.