by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Many years ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and 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 the financial wealth gap remains quite significant. Many problems in our world occupy our minds, from mass shootings to domestic and global terrorism. Calls for attack and war have become commonplace instead of the last possible alternative to societal conflict. As Mother Teresa said,
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. That man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we would still need tanks and generals?”
You probably know people who have experienced many challenging times, and perhaps 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. We as a society must take a serious look at what is going on. It is essential that we look so that change can take place, but it must be a change that understands we belong to each other, or it will not last.
When I observe 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?” It reminds us that 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 on. Its wise counsel suggests we see this world and all that happens in it as our responsibility, not so that we beat ourselves up (as our egos would suggest), but so we can take responsibility and know our healing is possible – in fact, that it is inevitable. You see, if we are responsible for what we see, then we can also 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. The ego would like to draw from this statement that if we are like God, then He is like us, as petty, judgmental, and hateful as we can be. But the saving distinction that the Course offers is that all those twisted images we have made ourselves into are not the truth; we still remain as God created us, not what we made of ourselves.
If this is the case, and we are assured it is, 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. All truth and knowledge abide within us, awaiting our willingness to turn away from the lies of the ego and embrace the miracle of forgiveness that is always present.
As we all know, just because the clouds might dim our view of the sun on a cloudy day, that does not mean the sun is not there. The sun is 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.) we believe in. The Course tells us we must unlearn the mistaken thoughts so the truth can be revealed. It was said that Michelangelo sculpted his masterpieces in much the same way. 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. Our “ancient over-learning” can also take the form of separating thoughts, as well. Even though diminishing concepts of ourselves subtly imply thoughts of separation from others, it is not as easy for us to see that the reason we think we are guilty and incapable, lost and alone is because of the hate we have for the “others” out there who have taken something from us. And yet, we are actually looking in a perceptual mirror and seeing ourselves as both victim and victimizer. The Course would tell us neither is true. Yes, you are the image you see without, but only as a way to lead you back to the truth of the masterpiece you truly are.
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 and practice what we are studying! Remember, Michelangelo didn’t sculpt the David overnight or paint the Sistine Chapel on a weekend; it took time. He focused on the masterpiece, 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 reach this point? We’re here now, aren’t we? We are at least entertaining the idea that there might be a better way than the path of hate and destruction. According to the Course, that is enough to start the process of dismantling the ego thinking of separation. The more we practice, the less hold the “ancient over-learning” will have on us.
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 and that we 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, but we all know it’s working at the intended rate. I remember one time I made scalloped potatoes in a crock pot. The average cooking time in the oven is 45 minutes; 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. Some of us may be on medium or high, and some of us may be on low or simmer, but when we’re done (and that IS inevitable), 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. As this new year begins, I encourage you to continue your own spiritual practice with the Course and remember that Miracle Distribution 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 website. I also want to offer a wonderful workbook lesson that you can use to occupy your mind. It’s lesson 233…
I give my life to God to guide today.
“Father, I give You all my thoughts today. I would have none of mine. In place of them, give me Your Own. I give You all my acts as well, that I may do Your Will instead of seeking goals which cannot be obtained, and wasting time in vain imaginings. Today I come to You. I will step back and merely follow You. Be You the Guide, and I the follower who questions not the wisdom of the Infinite, nor Love whose tenderness I cannot comprehend, but which is yet Your perfect gift to me.
“Today we have one Guide to lead us on. And as we walk together, we will give this day to Him with no reserve at all. This is His day. And so it is a day of countless gifts and mercies unto us.”
To help you keep this thought by your side, we have created a wristband with this lesson’s title. I hope you will get one or cut this lesson out and put it in your wallet, purse, on the refrigerator, or wherever you often look. May it be a reminder not only of your willingness to let God occupy your mind but also that we are so loved and precious to Him, and He has never left our side.