Why seek for future happiness?

At the closing of  a calendar year, we tend to ponder about the year to come, and the ways in which we might make next year a better year. We make lists of new year resolutions for all sorts of topics. If we but try hard enough and follow through, so we reason, the future could be a bit brighter than last year. Needless to say, this is not an approach to achieving happiness that Jesus encourages in A Course in Miracles. As Workbook lesson 188 opens: “Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now.” (W-pI.188.1)

Indeed, there are many passages in which Jesus reassures us that perfect inner peace, which is what we yearn for most of all, is a matter of choosing the holy instant now. This is beautifully illustrated in Textbook chapter 26: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother. […] You see eventual salvation, not immediate results. Salvation is immediate… For a miracle is now. It stands already there, in present grace, within the only interval of time that sin and fear have overlooked, but which is all there is to time (i.e., now). The working out of all correction takes no time at all… Be not content with future happiness. It has no meaning, and it is not your just reward. For you have cause for freedom now.” (T-26.VIII.1-3)

Choosing the Holy Instant does not mean we do anything. We merely ‘make way’ in our mind for the Holy Spirit’s presence to enter. Textbook chapter 18, about the passing of the dream, elaborates on the ‘little willingness’ required to let peace be now: “The holy instant does not come from your little willingness alone. It is always the result of your small willingness combined with the unlimited power of God’s Will. You have been wrong in thinking that it is needful to prepare yourself for Him. It is impossible to make arrogant preparations for holiness, and not believe that it is up to you to establish the conditions for peace. God has established them. They do not wait upon your willingness for what they [i.e., the conditions for peace] are. Your willingness is needed only to make it possible to teach you what they are.” (T-18.IV.4)

Such assurances are of little value, however, to the many Course students who come to realize just how deeply attached they still are to the ego, and who wonder how they will ever muster the ‘little willingness’ to make every moment a holy instant, thereby undoing the ego thought system once and for all. To most Course students, enlightenment indeed seems to require many, many years of hard work, even decades, or several reincarnations. It’s not that they don’t sense the loving presence of the Holy Spirit within them, but He gets invited in only some of the time, and then usually to fix something in this world, instead of us leaving this world behind temporarily. Holy instants are very rare instants!

Jesus is no harsh teacher in A Course in Miracles. Although Jesus stands outside of time, he is well aware of how conditioned in time and space our minds are. In ACIM he meets us where we are: in the dream of time and space. The Workbook in itself is a great example. Realizing just how hard you find it to do even one lesson exactly as asked provides the ‘healthy respect’ for the ego that is needed to truly realize the misery we choose from moment to moment, and honestly say “This pain is too much – I’ve had it. There must be a better way.” In the Manual for Teachers, Jesus explains about the development of trust: “It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful.” (M-4.I.A.2). We do not learn this immediately; it takes time.

It can be helpful to remember from time to time, as you go through your daily practice of A Course in Miracles, that although salvation is immediate, the process of accepting salvation takes time. If we try to hasten our mind training, it may degenerate into fighting the ego, which is the last thing Jesus would advocate. Fighting the ego is the worst thing you can do, for the ego feeds on condemnation. Instead, we should allow ourselves to trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in becoming a happy learner: “You will first dream of peace, and then awaken to it. Your first exchange of what you made for what you want is the exchange of nightmares for the happy dreams of love. In these lie your true perceptions, for the Holy Spirit corrects the world of dreams, where all perception is.” (T-13.VII.8). You and I don’t go from being an ego-slave to total enlightenment in one holy instant; it’s a process.

So anytime I catch myself pondering about my future happiness, I can realize this is an opportunity to make a better choice now and become a happy learner now. Not to be enlightened immediately, but to choose to let my mind be guided by the Holy Spirit more often: “The Holy Spirit needs a happy learner, in whom His mission can be happily accomplished. You who are steadfastly devoted to misery must first recognize that you are miserable and not happy. The Holy Spirit cannot teach without this contrast, for you believe that misery is happiness” (T-14.II.1:1-3). Jesus needs me to get to the point of saying: “This misery that I sought up to now really becomes too painful. I resign now as my own teacher. Please, Holy Spirit, join me in making this instant a holy instant of peace.” Our practice of A Course in Miracles is to increasingly often choose such moments. Only this way will you become a happy learner, and eventually an advanced Teacher of God. So take heart if you notice you forgot for a long time. Your choosing it now is all that matters, regardless of your past. Or future.

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, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:



Peace on earth?

Christmas is a time in which we remind ourselves and others that in spite of all the misery within us and around us, there’s something good in each of us, and we could choose to focus on that. Christmas is seen as a time to aspire to bring a little more peace on earth, and to contribute to that by being less irritated and hot-headed, at least for a few days. Although the religious connotation of Christmas gradually loses its significance, the message of the possibility of love nevertheless remains in our minds. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, though, in this positivism we tend to forget a few subtle but important aspects about hoping for a little more “love, peace and understanding”.

First of all, you and I are thoroughly convinced that the world in which we see and move about is our daily reality. Yes, I want peace, but I want it in a world that I see is inherently unpredictable and threatening. If I’m not constantly on the lookout, there’s bound to be pain. This means that to achieve any measure of peace at all, this will by definition be a struggle. It will demand constant effort, not to mention sacrifice (although the sacrifice will at least ‘prove’ to God that I am kind and innocent). We believe that this is the condition of life in the universe we live in. We tend to forget that in truth there is no physical world at all. When we look in the mirror in the morning, we see a body that we are convinced is our essence. We think that our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin perceive meaningful things. We think that our well-being depends on how we turn this sensory perception into ‘effective’ action.

A Course in Miracles, however, presents us with a metaphysical view on “life, the universe and everything” that is utterly mind-blowing. It’s called “strict non-dualism”. Jesus assures us that both time and space are inherently illusory, which means that not only all sensory perception is an illusion, but that the entire idea of being born, maturing, aging, and finally dying, is a silly, nightmarish hallucination as well. We are pure spirit, eternally unchangeable, dreaming a dream of time and space, of bodies and behavior. God knows absolutely nothing about all of this. God is pure Love, which is all-encompassing. What is all-encompassing can have no opposite (T-In.7). Therefore fear, the opposite of Love, must be false. Kenneth Wapnick reminded us frequently that the God to whom we pray at Christmas, the God who sees all that’s going on and definitely judges us for it, is a God you and I made up, to be able to hold up our face of innocence: sin is clearly in others, not in me. “Just look at this world, dear God, and you will surely agree that this is so.”, we pray in fear.

Secondly, perhaps more importantly, Jesus in A Course in Miracles reminds us that we weren’t thrust by God into this earthly hell unwillingly… we, as the sleeping Son of God, actively chose to (mis-)make this universe and earth, to ‘prove’ to God that we can do very well on our own, without Him. The ontological instant of the tiny, mad idea of separation, resulting in what is scientifically known as the Big Bang, was an act of condemnation, attack and separation, in a mad attempt to achieve individual autonomy (in billions of fragments). Since ideas leave not their source, by definition, then, everything in the universe is fueled by this dynamic. I keep condemning, attacking, and emphasizing differences, just to keep up the illusion that I can indeed exist as an individual apart from my Creator. Everything I perceive is but the confirmation of this wish. And guess what, I’ve seemingly managed to deny the hopelessness of this for some fourteen billion years so far. No wonder that the world has become very weary. No wonder that “peace on earth” seems farther away than ever.

Still, the goal of the curriculum of  A Course in Miracles is to attain peace (“Knowledge is not the goal of the Course; peace is.”, T-8.I.1). How can we experience peace in a hallucinatory world? Only by realizing that, yes, we find ourselves in this world, but we are not of this world. In A Course in Miracles, the miracle shows us that what we think to be gospel truth in this world is not so, and there’s a much better choice we can make now. This is simply the choice to give up condemnation, attack and separation. I don’t need to focus on metaphysics during the day. I don’t have to deny that I deeply care for the well-being of my body. I don’t need to give up anything I still cherish in this world. But I do need to look at my mind and realize that each instant of the day I choose the teacher to guide my thoughts: either the ego (wrong-minded thinking) or the Holy Spirit (right-minded thinking). The ego is geared towards specialness; the Holy Spirit towards sameness – the same unconditional, non-judgmental love that is always there for the choosing in our mind.

That’s why Jesus advised Helen and Bill to “make this year [i.e., the year to come] different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you.” (T-15.XI.10). The meaning of this sentence is profound: “making it all the same” means to realize that each seemingly separated life form shares the same interest, namely returning to the eternal unchangeable Oneness of God, thereby undoing the dream of time and space forever. Realizing that every seemingly separated brother is but a mirror of my own state of mind, each encounter with a brother offers me a great opportunity to transform the ancient ontological moment of separation into a holy instant of union. There will still be irritation, fights and civil war in the world. I will still be shifting back and forth between wrong-minded thinking and right-minded thinking. But whenever I choose to give up condemnation I invite the reflection of the Love of God to shine here on earth, which then manifests in places and times I cannot even begin to imagine. My accepting the miracle is all that’s needed to choose peace on earth. Try it. Keep trying it now. Peace can only be attained here and now, in the mind.

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, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


Making a thousand homes

“This world you seem to live in is not your home. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel an alien here, from somewhere all unknown. Nothing so definite that you could say with certainty you are an exile here.” Thus opens Workbook lesson 182, “I will be still an instant and go home”. These words have touched the hearts of many a student of A Course in Miracles, only quickly to be repressed and forgotten again, since we cannot yet accept the pain of the implication, namely that we are the ones who exiled ourselves to this “barren desert, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W-pII.341.5). And so we spend our days trying to make the best of this illusory world, stubbornly “vowing that what God wants for us will never be, and that we will oppose His Will forever” (T-24.III.4:6).

Lesson 182 graphically describes how we try to make ourselves at home in a world that is not our Home. Jesus speaks for everyone who walks this world: “He goes uncertainly about in endless search, seeking in darkness what he cannot find; not recognizing what it is he seeks. A thousand homes he makes, yet none contents his restless mind.” (W-pI.18.3:2) These ‘thousand homes’ refer to all the special relationships we set up with people, with substances, with hobbies, with possessions; you name it. We spend our lives trying to find a home (i.e., lasting inner peace) in externals in the world. While Jesus’ purpose is not to make us feel guilty over our silliness, he does emphasize time and again that we must look at our illusions honestly, or we’ll never be able to make the better choice of changing our minds and ending the dream of duality that is this world.

So let’s look at our thousand homes, our various special relationships, for a moment. The most obvious attempts we find in our relationships with people. For example, many marriages are fueled by a mutual desire to complete the self with ‘special’ attributes of the spouse. We seek to build “a union made in heaven” as our life’s home. Alas; the high divorce rate well illustrates the disappointment that inevitably surfaces. Instead of learning the lesson, we listen to the ego’s counsel to seek another special love partner. “Another can be found.” (W-pI.170.8). And then the same cycle happens again. Jesus’ point is not that everyone should go for celibacy; the point is to be aware of the purpose with which you enter into a relationship: what is it for?

Another example of attempting to build a home in our ‘barren desert’ can be seen in our addictions to substances. It need not even be an addiction to obvious slow killers such as drugs, alcohol or nicotine. Even a seemingly ‘innocent’ addiction to chocolate, coffee, or junk food is in effect an attempt to find comfort in a threatening world. And then we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic on our hands. Being overweight does not call for ‘smart’ dieting programs; it calls for changing the mind about what is valuable in this life and what is valueless. Still, even a vigilant drive to eat as healthily as possible in your life, is an attempt to build a safe home. It will not make the body last, and certainly will not content the restless mind.

Perhaps you think that making a lot of money and then comfortably moving in your luxury mansion with your Lamborghini is the home that will bring you peace. In practice, though, we see that many very rich people feel extremely insecure and vulnerable. The unreliability of the world presses equally hard on their minds as it does with the billions of financially poor people in the third world countries. No matter how many houses you can afford to buy, they will never function as the home that you seek to content your restless mind.

All this seeking and building does not need to be physically or materially visible. Even a well-intentioned study on a scientific, societal or spiritual subject, geared at helping mankind take a next step in its ‘evolution’, comes down to building a home that will not last, and therefore will not bring the inner peace that we want so much. Nor will any hobby, or activity to ‘build a better world’ content the restless mind. To find a valuable home in your life, you do not need things of the world, material or spiritual. You do not even need A Course in Miracles. You need only to choose to change your mind about the world, and realize your true Identity as Christ, the one Son of God, seemingly splintered into billions of fragments in a hallucinatory dream we call the universe and the world, and then choose to listen to the Holy Spirit’s advice ever more often.

“Seek not outside yourself. For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol falls,” we read in (T-29.VII.1). Anyone who has been through a divorce can attest to this. But before you slip into a depression about your current earthly life, take a look at what Jesus does advocate as valuable here, most notably in Workbook lesson 133, “I will not value what is valueless”, which offers clear criteria to test all things we think we want: “First, if you choose a thing that will not last forever, what you chose is valueless.” (W-pI.133.6) Well, that includes just about everything on this planet, except for your loving thoughts. “[…] Next, if you choose to take a thing away from someone else, you will have nothing left. This is because, when you deny his right to everything, you have denied your own.” (W-pI.133.7) This is a call to offer love instead of judgment. The lesson concludes that only the experience of the reflection of Heaven, which is the eternal Love of God, is to be valued: “Heaven itself is reached with empty hands and open minds, which come with nothing to find everything and claim it as their own.” (W-pI.133.13).

This means accepting the miracle, which shows you that you are the dreamer of the dream and that all you perceived and interpreted as valuable is not so. “There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach.” (W-pI.132.6). Seek not outside yourself. Examine your mind for the kind of experiences you would have in this life, and then try to be as vigilant for the Kingdom as possible. In practice, this means: looking at your mind and letting go of judgment and condemnation; being kind and helpful to your brothers, who are one with you; and gently forgiving your own mind for still judging all the time. That alone brings the true peace of mind that’s your only real valuable home here on earth; the only home that will transform into Home by the time the mind is ready for it.

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, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


Saying no

One of the major challenges students of A Course in Miracles face is that of seemingly facing a conflict while still remaining spiritually-minded. In an ego-driven world, people take advantage of others. Chances are that sooner or later you are confronted with such behavior. It may be someone who tries to prevent you from getting a promotion. It may be someone who is secretly embezzling money from your company. The forms are endless. From a spiritual frame of mind, I can see such events as “lessons of love” offered by the Holy Spirit. I can tell myself they provide me with a chance to “meet attack without attack” (P-2.IV.10); an opportunity to make a better choice – a choice for the Vision of Oneness, where before I chose condemnation.

These are typically situations where my own ego exercises its strength. You wouldn’t suspect it, but the ego loves to quote from A Course in Miracles in such circumstances. For example, “The ego analyzes; the Holy Spirit accepts” (T-11.V.13) is a favorite one. “Ha! Just see what happens if you don’t seriously analyze and act, but just accept you are being walked over on. What a wonderful Course,” the ego counsels us with scorn. And how about this one: “If your brothers ask you for something outrageous, do it because it does not matter.” (T.12.III.4) Again, the ego laughs cynically, asking me how much the curriculum of this Jesus guy will really bring me if I think and live this way. Even Jesus’ quote four chapters later: “I have said that if a brother asks a foolish thing of you to do it. But be certain that this does not mean to do a foolish thing that would hurt either him or you, for what would hurt one will hurt the other.” (T.16.I.6) has an ego interpretation. “See?” so the ego counsels us, “Even Jesus wants you to act if you’re about to be victimized. You’ve got to stand up for yourself if people are taking advantage of you. It’s in the best interest of all. Don’t be a doormat; take action and fight for your right!”

Too many students struggle to remain spiritually-minded at all cost when they are confronted with unfair behavior. Affirming to themselves they should always forego judgment, they end up being walked over. A deep sense of unfair sacrifice and being victimized is what remains. These are unfortunate cases of what Kenneth Wapnick calls “level confusion”. Remember, A Course in Miracles describes its curriculum on two levels. Level I is the nondualistic, metaphysical level of God and the extension of Love. On this level, there is no such thing as a world. Level II, on the other hand, is the level of the dream world in which we are convinced we are making a living. It’s trying to apply the metaphysical principles in a threatening dream world that we feel we have to live and act in that’s causing the real difficulty. It’s making the error of separation real, hoping against hope that by practicing spiritual principles, I as an individual will be better off in this world. That, of course, is a paradox that will never work.

The key to handling such situations is not to “spiritually forego any judgment”, but to get your little self out of the way and ask the Holy Spirit what to do. Yes, the Holy Spirit most definitely accepts, but that’s on the level I of everyone being a Son of God. On the worldly level II of time, space, and perception, the Holy Spirit offers you practical advice on how to handle a conflict situation in a way that results in the best outcome for all involved. This may involve sternness, “keeping your own ground”, and plainly saying: “No, I will not accept this.” Such refusal of acceptance pertains to the form, the situation at hand. So it’s quite possible, even advisable, to on the one hand fully accept a person (on level I) as a guiltless Son of God, while at the same time not accepting the person’s behavior (on level II) as this would lead to further attack, separation, defenses, you name it. As with so many places in A Course in Miracles, the distinction between form and content, between level I and II, is crucial. In some situations, this isn’t difficult. For example, if you have or have had little children, you probably remember being very stern in taking sharp objects such as scissors and knives from their hands. To the child, the behavior may seem unkind at first, but you are acting in everybody’s best interest.

Conflict situations are usually harder to handle this way. The difficult thing is to realize your investment in assuming you can and should handle such situations on your own. But that’s another way of trying to handle it “with the ego as teacher”. This is where we mess up. Any situation in which conflict or potential attack is involved can be handled perfectly by the Holy Spirit if only you invite Him in. As Ken Wapnick often loved to quote the combination of two separate phrases: “Resign now as your own teacher… for you were badly taught” (T-12.V.8:3; T-28.I.7:1). You’ll be amazed to notice how practical the advice of the Holy Spirit can be if you are confronted with an ego-driven conflict situation and you simply ask Him for help. If you learn to practice that for a while, you’ll be surprised to see how often the situation turned out to be more peaceful than you would have thought possible. As quoted before, Ken Wapnick has experienced this himself when we was confronted with a burglar in his house. Having found the courage to follow the Holy Spirit’s advice, the end of the story was that the burglar peacefully left his apartment, with the heart-piercing request “Pray for me…”

So why not try it in the days to come? If you feel you are entering into a situation in which you are being taken advantage of, and you feel the ego urge to act (to defend yourself, to become angry), try to step back and inspect your mind for what’s happening. Most people have no problem realizing the ego has entered the stage. The difficult challenge is to see the rapidity with which we then proceed to act and live it out. If you can train your mind to just stop, look at what’s going on in your mind, and then simply say to yourself: “I do not want to be taught badly again. Dear Holy Spirit, I would choose your guidance. Please, please tell me what to do,” you are taking a giant step in practical spiritual growth. You will still accept the person as a Son of God, but will not accept the possible outcome of the behavior or conflict. This is, by the way, also the reason that we have courts and judges. Jesus nowhere implies we should close all courthouses and prisons. We should simply practice in choosing a better teacher in this dream world, and realize it can indeed to be re-interpreted as a classroom to truly learn how to attain inner peace.

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, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


The sound of silence

Time and again A Course in Miracles urges us to train the mind to become aware of which teacher directs our thinking: either the ego (resulting in what Kenneth Wapnick refers to as “wrong-minded thinking”) or the Holy Spirit (resulting in “right-minded thinking)”. As long as I remain unaware of my unconscious – though still deliberate – choice to choose the ego as the teacher of my thoughts, I will continue to “seek but do not find” (T-16.V.6:5) in this world. Faithfully studying and practicing A Course in Miracles, I come to realize that I am more than my ego. In many places Jesus addresses us as what Kenneth Wapnick has dubbed “the decision maker”. Every day, every hour, every minute, and every instant within that minute, I decide between wrong-minded and right-minded thinking. The simplicity of A Course in Miracles lies in the realization that wrong-minded thinking will ensure continued misery in my life, while right-minded thinking will result in lasting inner peace. The darn difficult part is living up to that realization from day to day.

Reaching the state of Heaven is not the goal in itself of A Course in Miracles. “Lasting inner peace” can be experienced to a certain degree within this dualistic world of time and space, but it will never be total. It will not last, as there will always be some ego temptation while we continue to count the hours and the days. The mind training serves only as a preparation for the return to Heaven, ending time and space. That is the true peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). This is the state in which the Son of God has awakened as the timeless Love of God, and all memory of the dream of dualism will have been completely forgotten. Still, the Course is very clear in stating that it remains within the ego framework, where it is needed (C-In.3.1). The state of Heaven, or the meaning of Love cannot be taught (T-In.1); the best what we can do is to make the mind ready for it. But remember, readiness is not mastery (T-2.VIII.7).

On the other hand, in the Manual Jesus tells us that it is quite possible to reach God: “In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world.” (W-pI.41.8). The pitfall we immediately stumble into is thinking that this refers to communication with words. We would do well to realize that this is not the kind of communication that Jesus talks about, since words were clearly made by dualistic minds in the dualistic dream, of which God knows not. In fact, Jesus even cautions us not to mistake our “verbal thoughts” for our real thoughts. He explains this as early as in Workbook lesson 10, My thoughts do not mean anything: “This applies to all the thoughts of which you are aware or become aware […]. The reason is that they are not your real thoughts.” (W-pI.10-1). Lesson 15 states that “My thoughts are images that I have made.” And, still more pointedly in Workbook lesson 45: “Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect. […] Where, then, are your real thoughts? […] We will have to look for them in your mind, because that is where they are. They must still be there, because they cannot have left their source. […] Under all the senseless thoughts and mad ideas with which you have cluttered up your mind are the thoughts that you thought with God in the beginning. They are there in your mind now, completely unchanged. They will always be in your mind, exactly as they always were.” (W-pI.45-1).

So here is the problem: we clutter up our minds with senseless verbal thoughts, with the purpose of drowning out the thoughts we think with God. Our real thoughts have nothing to do with grammar whatsoever. They cannot be described. An approximation would be “eternal Love”, since that is what God and you and I are. In several places in the textbook and workbook, Jesus invites us to try to steer our mind’s focus away from this verbal chatter, if only for an instant, and seek silence instead. It’s an exercise in learning to concentrate on nothing. Remember Patanjali’s famous eight-limbed path of Yoga, wherein the training of the mind is a major tenet. For example, In the Pratyahara practice, you learn to disconnect your conscious mind and senses from all external objects. Then, in the Dharana practice, you learn to concentrate on one concept. The next stage, Dhyana, comes down to undisturbed meditation and observation of what is. You let go of all attachments, all control and all defenses. The crowning of this practice is the state of Samadhi (literally: liberation), or the “mediation on nothing”. In Samadhi, the mind is totally aware of the present. It knows there is nothing else. The flow of verbal chatter has stopped and there is only pure awareness of Self. Of pure eternal Love. Of our Identity as the Son of God.

This is the prerequisite for directly reaching God. This is obviously not easy to attain and, again, it is not the focus of A Course in Miracles. In (M-26.2) we read that “There are those who have reached God directly, retaining no trace of worldly limits and remembering their own Identity perfectly. […] Sometimes a teacher of God may have a brief experience of direct union with God [i.e, having transcended the ego clutter temporarily]. In this world, it is almost impossible that this endure. It can, perhaps, be won after much devotion and dedication and then be maintained for most of the time on earth. But this is so rare that it cannot be considered a realistic goal. If it happens, so be it. If it does not happen, so be it as well. All worldly states must be illusory. If God were reached directly in sustained awareness, the body would not be long maintained. […] Do not despair, then, because of limitations. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.”

So, summarizing, we read that it is not possible to reach God (that is, in direct communication with God) in sustained awareness. On the other hand, we are invited to train our mind to be able to reach a state of perfect silence, even if only for a short while. A fine example of this call is found in Lesson 182, I will be still an instant and go Home: “When you are still an instant, when the world recedes from you, when valueless ideas cease to have value in your restless mind, then will you hear His Voice. […] In that instant He will take you to His Home, and you will stay with Him in perfect stillness, silent and at peace, beyond all words.” (W-pI.182.8). The way to go about this is explained in lesson 189: “Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” This is, by the way, also an apt description of Patanjali’s Yoga path. It sounds simple enough, but have you ever tried it and succeeded for more than a few seconds?

The following exercise can be a major eye-opener to realize just how deeply our ego chattering holds us in chains. Find an empty room where you can be by yourself for a while. Seat yourself on a chair in a relaxed but straight-up position. Place your hands in your lap, or loosely on your thighs. Close your eyes. Now do as Jesus requested in lesson 189, described above. Empty your mind. Hold onto nothing. Become the silent observer. Ah, you caught yourself thinking a thought! You know what to do: don’t feel guilty, just become the silent observer again. Oops, there’s another thought! Jesus’ request seems simple enough at a first glance, but it turns out almost impossible to keep it up even for a minute. We seem to think all the time! And yet, finding complete silence is possible.

In the mid-sixties, in the beginning years of the scribing of the Course, Indian teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008) traveled the world teaching what he called “Transcendental Meditation” (TM), as taught to him by Guru Dev. Maharishi taught many thousands of people in his lifetime, including the Beatles. TM is a technique to still the stream of verbal thought chatter completely, and so experience the total stillness that Lesson 182 and 189 speak of, if only temporarily. This technique uses breath for the “focus on one concept”, in Patanjali’s words. Since the breath is more or less automatically controlled by the cerebellum, it is a reliable phenomenon to train sustained concentration on. After a while you suddenly notice that there was a time span in which you had no thought whatsoever, that is, no verbal thought. You were concentrating on no-thing. This is the stillness that Jesus talks about, and it can be quite an experience. Some call it a revelation. That is why you can hear John Lennon sing “Jai Guru Dev – aah” in “Across the Universe”.  Of course neither Guru Dev nor Maharishi invented the technique; people have been practicing it for thousands of years. Also, certain Shamanistic rituals are known to induce a trance that results in more or less the same “concentration on no-thing” and therefore the same experience. Many other effective forms of meditative concentration have been identified in the past fifty years. The point is not the uniqueness of the techniques; the point is that most people do not realize the enormous treasure for the mind that they hold, if practiced faithfully and with discipline.

A universal experience is not only possible but necessary (C-In.2.5). This universal experience is, in a sense, the sound of silence, realizing that life is One. It is no sound at all. It is direct communication with God. Recall lesson 106, Let me be still and listen to the truth:  “If you will lay aside the ego’s voice, however loudly it may seem to call; if you will not accept its petty gifts that give you nothing that you really want; if you will listen with an open mind, that has not told you what salvation is; then you will hear the mighty Voice of truth, quiet in power, strong in stillness, and completely certain in Its messages. Listen, and hear your Father speak to you through His appointed Voice, which silences the thunder of the meaningless, and shows the way to peace to those who cannot see. Be still today and listen to the truth.” Again, while it is not the main focus of the curriculum to reach this state continually (since in that case you would hibernate in a cave for the rest of your life), it is useful in the sense of training your mind to more quickly become aware of the presence of a much better teacher for your mind chatter. If you use this practice of total stillness to become more quickly aware of the “better way”, you can be assured you are saving yourself a huge time span of misery. Happy practicing!

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, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: