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:

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2 thoughts on “The sound of silence

  1. Pingback: Het geluid van stilte – Ik zoek innerlijke vrede .nl

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