What’s Occupying Your Mind?

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

Many years ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, as well as other “Occupies” around the country, popped up to protest the financial challenges and wealth inequities and to call for help now. I think we can still relate, as our financial health and other inequities are still problems as we emerge from the pandemic with job layoffs, businesses closing, the wealth gap, mass shootings, and the ramifications of the war in Ukraine.

You probably know people who have experienced many challenging times, maybe even yourself. I frequently receive communications from supporters who are having tough times. I can see how the growing discontent over the problems and solutions (or lack thereof) has become fertile ground for frustration. It is essential that we as a society take a serious look at what is going on. It is essential that we look so that change can take place.

When I look at what’s happening in the world, I often ask myself, “What can I learn from this?” A Course in Miracles suggests we ask, “What is this for?” As the Course reminds us, the external world only reflects an inner condition. At first thought, this comment might seem pretty depressing. With all the hate and attack going on, to be told this reflects an inner condition can make us feel defeated. That, however, is not what the Course intends for us to focus upon. Its wise counsel suggests we see this world and all that happens in it as our responsibility, not so we can beat ourselves up (as our egos would suggest), but so we can take responsibility and know our healing is possible – in fact, it is inevitable. You see, if we are responsible for what we see, then we also can make a change. It’s not beyond us.

Even though transformation is not beyond us, it is not of us alone; we cannot do it without the Holy Spirit’s help. This is a crucial caveat. We cannot heal alone. As the Course reminds us, we made the problem that seems outside of us and beyond the ability of poor little us. This powerlessness is so etched in our minds that the Course refers to it as our “ancient over-learning,” which echoes the words we hear way too often in our minds: This is too hard to learn, too difficult to apply, and maybe all this God stuff isn’t real anyway.

Here’s how the Course puts it…

“Learning is an ability you made and gave yourself. It was not made to do the Will of God, but to uphold a wish that it could be opposed, and that a will apart from it was yet more real than it. And this has learning sought to demonstrate, and you have learned what it was made to teach. Now does your ancient over-learning stand implacable before the Voice of truth, and teach you that Its lessons are not true; too hard to learn, too difficult to see, and too opposed to what is really true. Yet you will learn them, for their learning is the only purpose for your learning skill the Holy Spirit sees in all the world. His simple lessons in forgiveness have a power mightier than yours, because they call from God and from your Self to you.” (T-31.I.5)

The Course starts right off by telling us that learning is something we made up. This really doesn’t make much sense in our world, where we are obsessed with learning because, according to statistics, we’re getting dumber and dumber! This, however, makes excellent sense from the Course’s perspective. If we are a creation of God, then we are like Him (not He is like us). Therefore, what would there be to learn if we were like Him? We would have all knowledge since knowledge is of God. But, as the Course tells us, we have fallen asleep to that reality, even though that does not change the truth one little bit.

As we all know, just because we can’t see the sun in the sky during the day because of the clouds doesn’t mean that the sun is not there … it’s simply not in our awareness. The same is true of knowledge; we have all the answers we need, but we must clear away the “clouds” (illusions of unworthiness, fear, guilt, attack, etc.) that we believe in. The Course tells us we must unlearn the mistaken thoughts so the truth can be revealed. Much the same way, it was said that Michelangelo sculpted his masterpieces. When asked how he created his incredible sculptures in marble, he said that he simply chipped away everything that was not the masterpiece.

It’s now time for us to “chip away” everything that is not the masterpiece of us! That would be all our ancient over-learning, such as I’m not smart enough, I’m incapable, I’m unworthy, I’m alone and scared, I’m not sure what to do, and the list goes on.

We have had faith in the lies of the world for so long that it seems almost impossible to make a change now. But, we are studying A Course in Miracles, so perhaps we need to believe what we are studying and practice it! Remember, Michelangelo didn’t sculpt the David overnight or paint the Sistine Chapel on a weekend, it took time, but he focused on the masterpiece and not the distractions. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and a few lost years before we hear about his teachings. So what if it has taken us a while to get to this point? We’re here now, aren’t we?

In the miracle principles that begin the Course text, we read…

49. The miracle makes no distinction among degrees of misperception. It is a device for perception correction, effective quite apart from either the degree or the direction of the error. This is its true indiscriminateness.

50. The miracle compares what you have made with creation, accepting what is in accord with it as true, and rejecting what is out of accord as false.

39. The miracle dissolves error because the Holy Spirit identifies error as false or unreal. This is the same as saying that by perceiving light, darkness automatically disappears.

How powerful! We are not asked to deny this world, our judgments, the judgments of others, or the seeming impossibility that peace and healing are possible here – there are no distinctions among degrees of misperception; one is not more difficult than another. We are only asked that all our illusions be brought to truth; be willing to allow the infinite power and knowledge of God’s Love to reign again in our minds. We are willing to let truth, not error, light, not darkness, fill our minds. But how do we get there when we seem so caught in the “darkness”?

Remember how Hansel and Gretel put out breadcrumbs to find their way home? Well, we have “breadcrumbs” that can help us find our way home in the middle of our crazy lives…. they’re called miracles.

43. Miracles arise from a miraculous state of mind, or a state of miracle-readiness.

15. Each day should be devoted to miracles. The purpose of time is to enable you to learn how to use time constructively. It is thus a teaching device and a means to an end. Time will cease when it is no longer useful in facilitating learning.

It’s time we focus on the truth, not the lie, and that we devote time to miracles. Let us clearly look at our lives and world and ask that the Holy Spirit be our eyes, ears, hands, feet, and words. This declaration may need to be said many times during the day, but that’s how we create a miracle-readiness state of mind; we focus on it. Then, we devote time to it.

As the Course tells us, the only use for time or learning is the one that the Holy Spirit sees in it. His message is not one of condemnation for needing to use learning, time, or miracles because we have forgotten Who we are. His message is one of infinite patience.

I often relate our spiritual growth to cooking a meal in a crock pot. If you have ever cooked using a crock pot, you know it cooks VERY slowly, but the dishes that come from that slow cooking are incredibly delicious. Because it cooks so slowly, it takes a long time to see or smell any results of the cooking, but we all know it’s working at the rate it was intended to. I remember one time I made scalloped potatoes in a crock pot. The normal cooking time in the oven is 45 minutes, but these crock pot potatoes took four hours! But they were delicious! We are all crock pots cooking in our spiritual growth at the perfect rate for us, and when we’re done, we’ll be deliciously at peace!

Let us look at whatever challenges happen in our personal or global lives as the same opportunity for God to occupy our minds. I encourage you to continue your own spiritual practice with the Course and remember that the Center has many services that can be truly helpful to you to occupy your mind in a healing way. I invite you to check them out on our Services page.

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