“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.
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:
“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.