For many students of A Course in Miracles, their view of their own body has become somewhat strained, to say the least. After all, Workbook review VI (lessons 201-220) would have us repeat for twenty days on a row that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me.” Passages such as “I was mistaken when I thought I lived apart from God, a separate entity that moved in isolation, unattached, and housed within a body” (W-pII.223.1) hardly invite the student to continue to favor the body. Instead, Jesus urges us to: “…choose the spirit, and all Heaven bends to touch your eyes and bless your holy sight, that you may see the world of flesh no more except to heal and comfort and to bless.” (T-31.VI.1) In A Course in Miracles, Jesus brings everyone’s ambivalence about the body into full consciousness, which may feel rather painful at times.
It does not follow, however, that the body is evil, nor that we should ignore it as much as possible. On the contrary; if you read the previous quote above very carefully, it’s clear that Jesus invites us to use the body to heal and comfort and to bless. In Chapter 18, we read the following all-important lines: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions.” (T-18.VII.4) This is a crucial statement that distinguishes A Course in Miracles from most world religions and even from many spiritualities, in which either the sinfulness or holiness of the body is paramount. Jesus subscribes to neither. The key lies not in any characteristic of the body (since everything made of matter is illusory); the key lies in the purpose that guides what we do with the body. This purpose has only two modes: either to hurt or to heal; to attack or to love; a miracle or murder. While we believe we live in time and space, we can choose to put the body to good use indeed: to heal and comfort and to bless.
The practical implications of such a mindshift can be enormous. For one, many people are extremely uncertain about the attractiveness of their own body. For some, this has become an obsession that rules their world (i.e., mind). The commercial glamour world has brainwashed entire generations about the minimum standard that a body must comply to. Women are allowed to have virtually no fat at all, and men ideally look like Tarzan. All this vicious conditioning only reinforces the belief that to be happy in life, you must maximize the characteristics of the body (and spend lots of money doing so). How tragic! Reading Jesus’ comforting lines in chapter 18, however, I realize that whether my body is visually attractive or not becomes irrelevant. I may not meet the standards of the glossies, but I can still use my body to help, heal and comfort other seemingly separated people. This is what gives my life meaning. I do not need to be beyond the ego to do this. I can choose to help someone whenever I want, no matter how insignificant it may seem. In the manual we read: “Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come.” (M-3.1) I still believe I’m housed in a body, but I have chosen to use my body lovingly.
Sex is another topic that makes many spiritual aspirants highly uncomfortable. After all, isn’t sex the prime example of exalting the body? Most spiritual paths teach that time spent on sex isn’t particularly helpful in reaching enlightenment. A Course in Miracles seems to teach that the special (bodily) relationship is really a cannibalistic ritual with the aim of snatching from the other what we feel is lacking in ourselves to make the self complete. We completely fool ourselves when we equate “sex” to “making love”. Sex is primarily an ego-centered ritual. However, this does not mean that love, as in the joining of minds, is not possible in this ritual. “…remember love is content and not form of any kind. The special relationship [sex in this case] is a ritual of form, aimed at the raising of the form to take the place of God at the expense of content. There is no meaning in the form, and there will never be.” (T-16.VI.12) The key is to stop feeling guilty over the form of the ritual (in this case: sex), but to focus on the content behind the ritual, which ideally is the purpose of love, the joining of two seemingly separated minds, ending the separation. Therefore, even in sex the focus can shift from the body (form) to the mind (content), with no more guilt or uncertainty involved. Phew!
Why should I be attached to the attractiveness of my body anyway? My body only blossoms in the first twenty years of my life. After that, I must deal with fifty to seventy years of decay, inevitably ending in death. Scientists may be on the verge of breakthroughs in prolonging the longevity of the body, but to what end? We may succeed in adding more years to our life span, but does that guarantee more happiness? Deep inside, you and I know it doesn’t. Besides, if you subscribe to the eastern view of reincarnation, you (as spirit) inhabit many, many bodies in the course of time. The point therefore is not to make each of these bodies as powerful or attractive as possible, but to learn how to end the cycle of reincarnation. In his book “Your immortal reality”, author Gary Renard very graphically describes a vision in which his teachers Pursah and Arten treat him on a vision in which he gets to see, in quick succession, all the bodies that he has ever inhabited. Quite startling! Gary even published an audio book titled “The end of reincarnation”, in which he explains that our stubborn need to keep trying to find autonomy in a body – many lives on end – is futile. It’s only when you gratefully “resign as your own teacher” (T-12.V.8) and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, that you learn to undo all unforgiveness and finally return Home, outside time and space, “where God would have us be” (T-31.VIII.12).
Bottom line: stop feeling uncertain or depressed about your body. It’s not the visual perception of the body that matters; it’s the loving purpose that you can put the body to. Kenneth Wapnick in his workshops often spoke of the distinction between figure and ground, by which he meant the foreground and background of our focus. This is really about what’s upfront in my mind and what’s in the background. Conditioned by the marketing machines, we were taught to put visual perception in the foreground, and mind matters in the background. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus invites us to turn things around: place the mind in the foreground, and perception of space and time in the background. I still see the body, but in the background. Upfront in my mind is the purpose of love. This shifts the focus from using the body for idolizing the body to allowing the Holy Spirit to use the body to heal, to comfort and to bless; that is: to teach the end of separation. Thus we give the body a holy purpose indeed. This is something you and I can do at any moment of the day. Why not try it now?
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: