Why wait to choose Heaven?

In A Course in Miracles, workbook lesson 156, “I walk with God in perfect holiness”, Jesus offers us some imagery in the world we think we live in that can seem quite bewildering: “All things that live bring gifts to you, and offer them in gratitude and gladness at your feet. […] The waves bow down before you, and the trees extend their arms to shield you from the heat, and lay their leaves before you on the ground that you may walk in softness, while the wind sinks to a whisper round your holy head.” (W-pI.156.4:2,4). While the ego may feel flattered to be portrayed as so very special, it would also quickly decide that this entire course obviously belongs to the realm of fantasy, which would be foolish to pursue any further. So what gives?

If we read the lesson carefully, we will note that Jesus is not saying this is our actual experience in this world where we live our lives: he holds out a picture of what could be our experience. The key sentence is 6:2, where we read: “As you step back, the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world.” (W-pI.156.6:2; my italics). ‘Stepping back’ means we gladly decide to “resign as our own teacher” (T-12.V.8:3), acknowledging that we have been wrong about everything all the time, that Jesus is right, and that we now choose to listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit — the Voice for Love — to guide our thoughts and actions. From a practical point of view, this means to monitor our minds for any dark spots of unforgiveness (i.e., judgment, condemnation), and then quickly forgive ourselves, that is, withhold the judgment and ask what to think and do instead.

But even if we would successfully practice that throughout the day, we shouldn’t expect ‘the waves to bow down before us, and see the trees extend their arms to shield us from the heat’. The key, therefore, is to see that Jesus is using metaphorical language. We should not take these words literally. Jesus does this often in his Course; this is because the truth that he holds out to us, and which we yearn for deep beneath all these layers of fearful ego defenses, cannot be described in words. See for example workbook lesson 20, entitled “I am determined to see”. If taken literally, this makes no sense. After all, setting aside those who are physically blind, our eyes already see. However, Jesus does not refer to the sight of the eyes, but to the inner vision of the mind’s eye. This is about the difference between form and content that scholar Ken Wapnick talks about so much. The forms our eyes behold are myriad (and ultimately meaningless), while the content that the vision of the mind (“the mind’s eye”) beholds, has only two options: either love or fear/hate (or, as Kenneth Wapnick liked to rephrase it, either love or a call for love).

In other words, Jesus tries to explain to us that once we relinquish our investment in the forms of the world (which were only made by the sleeping Son of God to distract our attention from the mind’s decision maker to choose love once again anyway), which we do through forgiveness and asking for help to see things differently, the content of the Holy Spirit’s Love and gentle guidance shines forth automatically. This leads to the memory of our inheritance, our Identity as the One Son of God, which has no form. The problem is that we think we don’t want to relinquish this investment, because we don’t want to relinquish our individuality. And as long as we stubbornly believe that our eyes report reality to us, we simply won’t do it, at least not consistently and all the time. That’s why most of part I of the workbook focuses on having us realize that our focus on form will never lead to the happiness and peace that we truly seek in life. And so Jesus tries to install a new belief, as expressed in, again, workbook lesson 20, “I am determined to see”: “You want salvation. You want to be happy. You want peace. […] Your decision to see [again, not with the physical eyes, but with the mind] is all that vision requires. […] Remind yourself throughout the day that you want to see.” (W-pI.20.2:3-5;3:!;4:1; my italics).

Now, you might ask something like: “Okay, so if I try this, I may not see the trees extend their arms to shield me, but what experience would vision bring me, then?” Actually, this experience is not so alien at all. Just try a slow stroll on a sunny day in a beautiful nature resort; or it could be a forest, a park, or a riverside nearby. Most of us are familiar with the brief experience of feeling completely at one with nature, once we choose to focus on stillness in such a setting. Try to remember a moment, perhaps long ago, when the world seemed to shimmer into the background, and a feeling of complete peace and oneness surrounded you, even if only for an instant. Don’t you remember having had such a moment? And once you focus on that, you could also choose to practice that principle in your busy everyday life. Every day you and I meet dozens of people. What if we would choose to see past the form of these bodies, and instead consistently visualize the very same light in everyone that Jesus says shines in all of us? Again, to the ego, this amounts to fooling ourselves; but to the Holy Spirit, this amounts to reflecting the Light of Heaven in the illusory dream of fragmented forms.

This is the light in all of us that never dies. Jesus speaks of this in lesson 156: “The light in you [i.e., everyone] is what the universe longs to behold. All living things are still before you, for they recognize Who walks with you. The light you carry [i.e., the Love of God] is their own. […] As you step back [that is, once we are willing to…] the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world [again, in the collective mind]. […] In lightness and in laughter is sin gone, because its quaint absurdity is seen. It is a foolish thought, a silly dream, not frightening, ridiculous perhaps, but who would waste an instant in approach to God Himself for such a senseless whim?” (W-pI.156.5-6).

Well, obviously we all do, for Jesus immediately continues by reminding us that: “Yet you have wasted many, many years on just this foolish thought.” (W-pI.156.7:1) And if you consider that this very likely isn’t the first time you are born here on this planet, we may understand “many, many years” as thousands of years. That’s why one of Jesus’ central points in his Course is the question: “Why wait for Heaven?“, as we read in workbook lesson 188: “Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now. Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home.” (W-p1.188.1:1-8)

Again, the trouble is our tremendous resistance to choosing to consistently focus on the content of light instead of on the forms of the world, as this heralds the end of the ego, with which we so desperately identify, since this holds up the illusion of being autonomous and on our own. That’s why lesson 156 concludes with the very helpful question: “‘Who walks with me?’ — This question should be asked a thousand times a day.” (W-pI.156.8:1) I’ve said it before and will say it again: Jesus means this literally. Any time we notice we dislike, reject or judge something, however small it may seem, this question should pop up automatically: ‘Who walks with me?’ Is it the ego, leading to rejection, judgment and unhappiness, or the Holy Spirit, leading to acceptance, peace and happiness? That’s why, outside the realm of perception, time and space, we do “walk” with God in perfect holiness. But we must be willing to remember that inheritance by stepping back (see lesson 155), and choosing the light of the Holy Spirit’s Love to guide us. The ego will tell you that once you loosen that grip, things will go terribly wrong. But once you genuinely try this, you will notice, in glad astonishment, that your life starts to flow much more smoothly.

Be determined to see today. All that is asked of you is a little willingness to step back. To conclude with the uplifting instruction from workbook lesson 20: “What you want is yours. Do not mistake the little effort that is asked of you for an indication that our goal is of little worth. Can the salvation of the world be a trivial purpose? And can the world be saved if you are not?” (W-pI.20.3:2-5). Practice this stepping back, that is, withholding judgment and asking for help in the guidance of your thoughts, many times each hour today. And remember Jesus’ gentle guidance: “Do not be distressed if you forget to do so, but make a real effort to remember [to see with the inner light of vision]. […] What you desire you will see. Such is the real law of cause and effect as it operates in the world.” (W-pI.20.5:2-6).

See also “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:



So much, for so little

In order to motivate his students to seriously study and apply the mind training for inner peace he offers in A Course in Miracles, Jesus promotes his curriculum by stating that “This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” (T-20.VII.1:7-8). What the Course offers us is lasting inner peace. This leads the mind to what Jesus calls the real world; free of sin, guilt, and fear, which is the preparation for the experience of Heaven, or nonduality. However, a few chapters later Jesus tells us bluntly that “To learn this course requires a willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.in.2:1-2). So is Jesus tricking us? What does he mean?

All good teachers know that they’ll motivate their students best by emphasizing much-desired rewards. And Jesus does this brilliantly. Here’s an example, wherein he refers to the “plan” of the Holy Spirit for our salvation: “Once you accept His plan as the one function that you would fulfill [i.e., forgiveness], there will be nothing else the Holy Spirit will not arrange for you, without your effort. He will go before you making straight your path, and leaving in your way no stones to trip on, and no obstacles to bar your way. Nothing you need will be denied you. Not one seeming difficulty but will melt away before you reach it. You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulfill.” (T-20-IV.8:4-9). And, from the workbook: “What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you.” (W-pI.135.18:1-2)

The trick, then, is to realize that Jesus’ Course delivers the promised rewards (in the way he describes them) only once we truly want to learn it. A part of our mind does want to learn his Course, otherwise we would not be studying this blue book and attempting to apply its lessons in our everyday lives. But once we slowly start to realize the ultimate consequence of accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, namely: the disappearance of our personality, the body, the world and the universe, we experience a slight twinge of resistance, to put it mildly. We start to self-sabotage our study and practice: “In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. […] There may well be a temptation to regard the day as lost because you have already failed to do what is required. This should, however, merely be recognized as what it is: a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again.” (W-pI.95.5:2-7:5)

So what a lot of students of A Course in Miracles do, is start to chastise themselves for being such a poorly motivated student; they determine to try harder this day, and still harder the next day. In short, they start to fight their ego, and their much-desired inner peace is farther away than ever. Such students would do well to re-read section VII in chapter 18, called “I need do nothing”: “You need but to remember you need do nothing. It would be far more profitable now merely to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do. […] It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Enormous effort is expended in the attempt to make holy what is hated and despised [the body].” (T-18.VII.5:5-6;4:7-8). A bit further on, Jesus explains the relationship between the body and our resistance to learn his course: “To do anything involves the body. And if you recognize you need do nothing, you have withdrawn the body’s value from your mind. Here is the quick and open door through which you slip past centuries of effort [of doing things with the body], and escape from time. This is the way in which sin loses all attraction right now.” (T18.VII.7:1-4).

Jesus italicizes “right now” to remind us that our notion of time is a hindrance to our acceptance of his teaching: “It is impossible to accept the holy instant without reservation unless, just for an instant, you are willing to see no past or future. Release is given you the instant you desire it.” (T-18.VII.4:1-2). At this point it may be helpful to remember the metaphysical basis of A Course in Miracles that time and space, the world and our body were not thrust upon us unwillingly: the seemingly sleeping Son of God made these, listening to the seductive lies of the ego, to keep us rooted in the illusion that we could be separate from our Creator, seemingly existing on our own as an autonomous individual. The ego convinces us that the future will be based on what we experienced in the past. It seeks to avoid the now, for only in the now are we able to reconsider the choice for the ego in the ontological instant, and choose once again the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God. To repeat: since this would ultimately mean the end of our personality, of the body, the world and the universe — in short: the end of the ego — we continually focus on externals, since our individual identity is the very last thing we would want to let go of.

Jesus invites us to reconsider this: “There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. […] You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. What plans do you make that do not involve its comfort or protection or enjoyment in some way? […] You are not asked to let this happen [forgetting about the body] for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens.” (T-18.VII.1-2). So the statement “I need do nothing” refers to our bodily actions in the world of time and space. By shifting our focus from externals (the world, the body, time) to the inner world of the mind, we could realize — and experience! — that if we but allow our thoughts to be guided by the Holy Spirit, life indeed flows much more easily. And the Holy Spirit is not likely to lead you to a solitary life in a mountain cave, renouncing the world — He is far more likely to guide you through a very busy life, with ample opportunities to forgive.

We overcome our tremendous resistance to making this choice to “resign as our own teacher” (T-12.V.8:3) not by fighting the ego, but by being kind to ourselves: “When you fail to comply with the requirements of this course, you have merely made a mistake. This calls for correction, and nothing else. […] Let all these errors go by, recognizing them for what they are. They are attempts to keep you unaware you are one Self, united with your Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace. This is the truth, and nothing else is true.” (W-pI.95.9:1-10:3). So what should be our focus? “Let us therefore be determined […] to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea. This tolerance for weakness will enable us to overlook it, rather than give it power to delay our learning.” (W-pI.95.8:3-4; my italics). Could you imagine a gentler spiritual teacher than this?

So this is why Jesus comforts us that “I need do nothing” amounts to “Concentrate only on this [the willingness to be guided], and be not disturbed that shadows surround you. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it.” (T-18.IV.2:4-7). And also, in the manual: “Do not despair, then, because of limitations [our perception that we are not good enough]. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.” (M-26.4:1-2). This course indeed requires almost nothing of us. Again, “It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” Yes, we must be willing to learn it, but we must especially be willing to forgive ourselves for not being wholly perfect and fully dedicated right away. Learning this course is a process, which takes time, as long as we believe we exist in time. Rather than hitting yourself over the head with a guilt trip each time you notice you sabotage yourself, remember the characteristics of God’s teachers: trust; honesty; tolerance; gentleness; joy; defenselessness; generosity; patience; faithfulness, and open-mindedness. Forgive yourself for still thinking you are a human body. Decide to accept the gentle correction of the Holy Spirit, and rest in his loving guiding arms, and happily realize: “I need do nothing.” The more you forgive yourself, the easier your life’s events will flow. Are you willing to forgive yourself yet?

See also “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:


Interview: being available

Life coach Fleur Smelt has recently interviewed me about A Course in Miracles and holistic health. The interview is in Dutch, but English subtitles are available. The interview has been published by “Miracles in contact”, the Dutch Course community. You can find the interview here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZYBnTrrUIw. You may have to turn the subtitles on manually, at the bottom right corner of the video.

Feedback or questions are welcome. Enjoy!

See also “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: