In Lesson 133, Jesus tells us, “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little”. This particular epigram never used to resonate much with me. My life was okay before I picked up A Course in Miracles. A bit shit, (life is a bit shit, Jesus tell us that plenty of times) but basically okay. I had my family and friends around me, a successful business, lots of money.
Then, suddenly, after completing about half the workbook, my life became a lot shit. Nearly everything I had, I lost, through no worldly fault of my own. All I wanted from then on was a bit of peace, to bring my children up without feeling threatened and attacked, and to have enough money to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. For years it seemed that God regarded this desire as a temerity, given my inherently sinful nature. I felt that I was on a treadmill all day with people throwing rocks at me, having to defend myself whilst still running, never sleeping, never stopping, always defending. I felt ragged and battered.
Jesus goes on to say “When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness”.
“Jesus”, I would say, snapping the book shut in frustration, “like you perfectly well know, I’m not interested in wealth of fame, or a fairytale romance. I just want you to stop throwing these bloody rocks at me!”
The lesson continues: “This course does not attempt to take from you the little that you have. It does not try to substitute utopian ideas for satisfactions which the world contains”.
“Umm, yes it does Jesus. You forget I’ve lived this course for 10 years. Since I first opened this book I’ve lost my eldest child, my home, my business, and my personal fortune. And I didn’t have to try. It just happened!”
And, then, the piece de resistance:
“There are no satisfactions in the world”
This, of course, is the foundational principle of ACIM. There are no satisfactions in the world! This is what Jesus means when he tells me that I do not ask for too much but far too little. He is calling upon me to awaken to the highest, eternal, unconditional love.
I caught the tiniest, most fleeting glimpse of this awakened state once, a Holy Instant. Maybe it lasted no longer than a second, but this was enough to show me the truth of this statement, that there really are no satisfactions in the world. After a permanent awakening to this truth, no lottery-win, book-deal or soul-mate relationship could possibly mean a thing. (Although I find it easy to relate to Helen Schucman’s opinion on ACIM, “I know it’s true, I just don’t believe it”).
It seems like a strange and impractical piece of advice to an imprisoned mind which still believes it is a body in a world. A mind with ambitions to feed, never mind mouths. Where’s the cash value? But Jesus gets this. As long as we are humble enough to acknowledge where we are, imprisoned in specialness, but willing to see things differently, we can expect a miracle. It is true humility alone that gets us there. This is why it is so important for each to own our own attachment to specialness. To catch the ever-present temptation to use this course to sparkle and shine and stand-out amongst others. Denying this attachment blocks Christ from awareness. Recognising it and observing it releases the folly of specialness.
“Humility brings peace because it does not claim that you must rule the universe, nor judge all things as you would have them be. All little gods it gladly lays aside, not in resentment, but in honesty and recognition that they do not serve”. (S.1.V.1,4-5)
The darkness of specialness which is held in the mind needs to surface and be exposed in order that it can be forgiven. This process is usually experienced as acute suffering and loss, (hence my nightmare experience), until the practice of detachment is achieved. Eventually, whilst specialness will persist in awareness, it becomes possible to detach, become the observer. This is what forgiveness really means. Watching your fears, your grievances, your attachments, and realising they are not real.
For many years since starting my ACIM study, I believed that some images were better than other images, somehow more important, valuable and pleasing to God. I gave up an entire career on this basis, and started another, feeling strongly guided by Holy Spirit. For a while I was deeply fulfilled, loving every moment of my new role, strongly believing I had found my life’s purpose. But, as a dedicated ACIM practitioner, Holy Spirit wasn’t going to let me swim in that delusion for too long.
There is only one purpose of life and that is forgiveness. Within a couple of years, my manager left the business, and someone else took her place. Here, suddenly, was a character in my life who no one, not even Dickens, could have invented. To borrow a term from Marianne Williamson, she came “straight out of casting central”. Everything about this character seemed to be exquisitely designed by a master craftsman to offend my every principle and jangle my every nerve. And to make matters worse, everyone around her seemed to confer upon her almost numinous qualities.
Never had I struggled so much in my life with another human being. I loved my job, passionately, but I couldn’t work with this woman. I realised I needed a miracle.
“What do I do Jesus?” I asked, on the hour, every hour, “I’m not going to make this decision on my own. You tell me and I’ll do it, but I need your help”.
I desperately didn’t want to resign but I suspected I might have to, and I wanted to wait until Jesus told me to do it. I got nothing. I walked in the woods and along the beach with my dog, hoping for inspiration, I meditated for hours. Nothing.
Then a friend rang me, a devoted Course student and clear scribe for Holy Spirit. She had a message for me,
“My dear child. You are asking me whether you should stay or go, and expecting me to make that decision for you. Please understand this. You have already made a decision although you do not realise it. You have decided to join with idols rather than with me. It doesn’t matter to me, to you, or to anyone else whether you stay or go my child. It is nothing but a sandcastle in your mind. The only thing that matters is that you forgive this situation and all the people involved. Nothing else has any importance at all.”
“Well, thank you very much!” I reacted angrily. I had always flattered myself that I was doing God’s holy work in my new role, and to be told it didn’t matter to Him or anyone else if I buggered off was not what I wanted to hear! But there was something about the context of the message that I couldn’t ignore. My friend ringing me up like that out of the blue. I knew Holy Spirit had gone to her as my own mind was too rageous to hear.
Back in the woods with my dog that afternoon, I felt that tiny shift into forgiveness. I didn’t suddenly see this woman as a wonderful person and I still don’t. But I did sense a detachment where I was able to see, just for an instant, that it wasn’t real. And in that single instant, my guidance came.
It didn’t matter whether I did or not. What mattered was that I had made the single important decision myself, to join with Holy Spirit. So He made the unimportant decision for me, to free up my mind from agonising over trivia. I resigned immediately, right there in the woods, but with a sense of peace rather than resentment, and have never regretted my decision.
In “Rules for Decision” we are promised a peaceful day if we make no decisions by ourselves. But this does not mean we ask Holy Spirit which fork in the road to take on our journey. As Jesus is about to tell us in the following chapter, all roads lead to death.
“Real choice is no illusion. But the world has none to offer. All its roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness and death. There is no choice in its alternatives”. (T-31. IV. 2)
Making no decisions by ourselves means something very different. It is a simple statement of fact. Nobody can make a decision on their own. Every decision is made with something else, either with idols or with God. If we make the problem real, we are making the decision with idols. If we make the problem meaningless other than in our opportunity to forgive it, we are making it with God. Then and only then will we have a peaceful day.