I run a number of meditation surveys with my subscribers at TheMeditationMind.com Invariably the #1 question they wish to have answered on meditation is How Do I Meditate? The "I" being the person that asked the question, not me personally.
I think a big factor in the popularity of A Course In Miracles is that it is based on irrefutable logic. There doesn't appear to be any areas that simply instruct a person to rely on blind faith. That was one of my many irritations with the Catholic way of teaching - when in a tricky spot, either rely on faith or you're sinning! Although I have to admit that is a genius strategy to observe compliance.
This idea obviously follows from the two preceding ones. But while you may be able to accept it intellectually, it is unlikely that it will mean anything to you as yet. However, understanding is not necessary at this point. In fact, the recognition that you do not understand is a prerequisite for undoing your false ideas. These exercises are concerned with practice, not with understanding. You do not need to practice what you already understand. It would indeed be circular to aim at understanding, and assume that you have it already.
How can you argue with that? I can't anyways. I was instructed to look about the room and say"I do not see that [whatever I am looking at] as it is now". I performed the exercise and found nothing disturbing about it.
The lesson coincided with thoughts I keep having about our reality that are giving me a sense of unease. As best I can understand what I am reading scientifically...when I see something in my range of vision, it is actually my brain interpreting bits of energetic information and projecting it into a screen in my head. So I am looking at my computer monitor right now it appears. But really I am just looking at light beams that are taken by the rods and cones of my retinas in my eyeballs, that then get bounced around and put up in a screen somewhere in the back of my brain so that I see the screen inside my head (Use google for "how vision works", or just click on this link to see what I mean). Which means the monitor shows up 2 feet in front of my face, but I'm viewing the back of my brain to "see" something 2 feet in front of me?
Typing this is making my forehead feel a cold ice needle sensation. I have no idea how reality actually works. If people are spending all day actually viewing the backs of their brains...my head hurts. I guess the exercise was disturbing to me after all.
There are so many quotable points of the Course in Miracles text that cuts through the daily life bullshit and tells it like it is. "The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here." A powerful statement that rings very true to me.
Think about it. Its a fact that the past is not here and there isn't anything you can do about it. The course wanted that this lesson "can be done four or five times during the day, unless you find it irritates you." It does irritate me, because I was irritated at how much time my mind wastes thinking about the past. I thought I was pretty good about living in the present moment!
I think the past is sometimes good for review to determine any lessons to be taken from the past experiences. But woulda/coulda/shoulda and replaying past scenarios over and over - it is an unproductive way to spend your time and it does nothing to help your present situation.
I did take solace in the fact that awareness of a problem is the first step to changing it. And I was supported with the lesson text that said "...understanding will finally come to lighten every corner of the mind that has been cleared of the debris that darkens it."
Debris. That is a good word to describe all the past thought-form junk floating around in my mind. So that makes me a metaphysical garbage man on a cleanup mission.
As you may have read from the last post, I am re-starting the lessons back here at lesson #7 because I got too far ahead in the lesson-to-blog-post ratio. I don't think it would be an accurate enough representation of my feelings and thoughts on a lesson to recall it from the past. Which is ironic given that today's lesson is that "I see only the past." (See Lesson 7 of ACIM here)
The lesson hits it right on the head with the first sentence. "This idea is particularly difficult to believe at first." Umm, yeah, it is a little odd to believe. However, the Course repeatedly stresses to suspend all disbelief and judgment while practicing the lesson of the day, so that is what I do. I glance around my bedroom, naming the objects I see in the manner "I see only the past in [whatever I look at]."
This lesson gives me a feeling of frustration. Its NOT with the lesson's content. If everything about everything I know is based on past experiences and not the current moment, perhaps I really don't have much of a clue at all about how the world works. And that is very frustrating.
When I glance at an inanimate object such as a lamp, I am not sure how much of a difference it would make that I see my past experiences of a lamp rather than the lamp as it is now. As long as it lights up the room, right? Of course, if I am not seeing the lamp in the now moment, and this current moment has a frayed wire that might set the room ablaze, I will wish that I had seen the lamp as it is now.
More importantly, when I make a judgment about a person, it shades all my future experiences with that person. This may or may not help me in the future. This "beginner's mind", as stated in esoteric zen buddhist texts, allows me to meet each situation with an unbiased, clear, and open mind.
Here I am posting after a 3 1/2 week delay. What the hell happened? Well, my dog really did eat some of my lesson cards as punishment for leaving the house for lunch. She will do that when it has been determined, by some criteria that I have yet to figure out, that Daddy is not supposed to leave for any reason. But that can't be the reason for not posting and following the lessons, because the lessons are readily available online and I also have the Course In Miracles huge book with every lesson in the back.
I had mentioned during my first post about how long it takes to do the one year Course In Miracles lessons. They are not overly time-consuming, they don't ask you to change anything (although you will change dramatically), and they are fun to do and I look forward to them. However, it took me quite a long time to get through the lessons the first time.
I couldn't put my finger on the problem. Everyone gets busy. But the public posting of the Course should have kept me more honest. In hindsight it is much easier to post first thing after having done the lesson for the day rather than playing catchup with posting about lessons after the fact. I had reached lesson 16 and realized my blog was 10 behind! I am going to re-start with lesson 6 and not move ahead until I've posted something.
So what is the block that I and so many others face with lesson progress during the Course In Miracles lessons? I believe it is the same foe that the Course promises to defeat, the Ego. Having been through the Course before, it is more obvious how the Ego will trick, plan, sneak attack, overtly attack, confuse, distract, and do anything else to keep you from the lessons of A Course In Miracles. The reason is that the Course can defeat the Ego and it knows it.
Lesson 6 of A Course In Miracles keeps hitting home on the same topic. It is another angle at your mind telling your mind that everything it sees is full of crap!
The instructions are to search your mind for any form of upset and say "I am angry/upset/worried at _____ because I see something that is not there."
The Course is still taking a full-on radical approach to my current reality. That really appeals to me. The "meaning of life" and all the idiotic things that I read and see on the news (when I can stand to watch, which is almost never) make it very clear that "things" are screwed up.
Hearing the news and advice that what is internally upsetting does not actually exist...that doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me. I am not clear on the alternative just yet, but I am open to consider that the world as it appears is not as it seems. That makes me happy actually.
Lesson 5 of The Course In Miracles tells me that "I am never upset for the reason I think." I like to think of myself as quite level-headed and justified if I get upset. Everyone probably feels this way! So why would a spiritual course tell me that I am wrong about this?
The text for the lesson says that "...until you learn that form does not matter, each form becomes a proper subject for the exercises for the day. Applying the same idea to each of them separately is the first step in ultimately recognizing they are all the same." Hmmm, so you are telling me that if I am upset because:
a.) I had to leave Maui
b.) I blew off a workout
c.) I am behind on my website action items
then it is all the same? They sure look like different things to me. But the goal of the lessons is not to question their validity and opt-out if I don't see the point. It is to practice them regardless of how they may rock your little world's perception. So I practiced them as directed, scanning my mind and saying to myself "I am not [worried/upset/angry] about ____ for the reason that I think" whenever I found something that was not copacetic.
There was no magic veil to reality lifted after doing this. It is the cumulative effect of the lessons over the 1-3 years that does the work. Since this is my 2nd time through the lessons, I can offer what this means to me this time around. Keep in mind it was not clear the first time I did the exercise.
Your ability to be in awareness and in tune with divine love is the overriding factor in how you will feel in a given day. In any situation, an event happens externally and then feelings and emotions either happen subconsciously or get chosen consciously. The more in touch with higher awareness and the present moment a person is, the greater the ability to notice emotional feelings being fired off internally.
When the feelings are noticed in the present moment, the conscious individual can determine to feel and experience the emotions, or let the initial feeling drift away and choose a different emotional response. Someone who is in great alignment with divine love will be much more likely to correct their response to situations.
Looking at things that upset me in the short list above, "leaving Maui" was not fun. I felt sadness and irritation at having to leave the island. Noticing these emotions, I consciously agreed that "yes, it does suck terribly to leave Maui." But I then let go of the feeling and focused on what was in front of me instead of running a subconscious script in my head that was triggered by leaving Maui.
There have been times when I am not so present in the moment I feel something I don't want to feel. I may suddenly "wake up" and be staring off into space feeling like crap. I have to piece together the clues and thought-chain that went from one bad thought to another and another to an awful daydream that gave me a pit in my stomach!
Lesson 4 of A Course In Miracles instructs me to scan my thoughts. I am to apply the following to each thought I find - "This thought about [whatever thought is] does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room." It does not matter whether the thought is "good" or "bad." The lesson is to be applied arbitrarily regardless of how I feel about the thought.
Fortunately I was having mostly what I felt to be "good" thoughts. Of course, in typing that previous sentence, I see that my interior judge is hard at work as usual. In just a few days of re-taking the Course, it has shocked me how much I judge everything that goes on.
It doesn't happen consciously, there is just a seemingly constant need to decide how I feel or think about everything that passes by my vision or mind.
But at this point it doesn't even feel like a need. It just happens. Thoughts arise but they have no trigger from what I consider to be "me." And then ancillary thoughts fire off to debate the value of the previous thought.
I am glad that the text portion of the Course In Miracles repeatedly assures me that I am not alone in having incessant monkey brain chatter. Because observing how little control I have over my thinking, and judging, is very embarrassing. I cling to the thought (once again, thinking) that awareness is a first step to change.
Lesson 3 builds on the first two lessons, instructing me to look around the room I am in. While I am doing that, whatever comes in my vision I am to tell myself "I do not understand anything I see in this room."
At first I thought this exercise was too similar to the previous two lessons. But when I looked around the room, the lesson's effect was quite dramatic. I realized that the lesson was right! I am not sure if it was because I was tired, my mind was not thinking much when I started the exercise, or the lessons are already taking effect.
When I looked at inanimate objects such as the wall-length mirror and my nightstand, there wasn't that much of a trigger. But when I looked at my dog, wife, and myself, all while saying "I do not understand", it was shocking.
Do I really understand my dog? She is a wonderful and sweet old girl. But I don't know her purpose for being alive, why she is in my life, and why she is snoring (and farting quite nastily) in my bedroom. Somehow along the way I have determined and accepted beliefs about her existence that I can't prove our true.
For my wife and myself, of course I like to think that I understand the two of us. However, loving someone with all your heart and understanding their reason for existence are two entirely different concepts entirely. I feel that she is teaching me how to expand true love to its fullest. I type this, it feels great, I am certainly going to continue to think and believe this.
But I don't understand that...or at least I'm willing to admit that what I think and believe to be true about any relationship in my life is something that I may not understand. For the people that come into my life, be it family, friends, pets, business partners, whoever - why did this happen?
Our souls conspired before birth to create situations to help us learn and grow?
The Law of Attraction brought us into contact?
Its a random genetic thing?
Something else that is beyond my scope of thinking?
The 2nd lesson tells me to glance around the room and say the following:
I have given everything I see in this room
[on this street, from this window, in this place]
all the meaning that it has for me
This lesson is pretty jarring if you really stop to think about it. When doing this exercise for a few minutes as instructed, it made me feel both foolish and happy. Foolish that there is so much in the world and how it works that I have read about but still often forget to apply. Happy that I am being reminded again so that I can live today and the future with a more corrected mindset.
I've heard a lot of esoteric concepts over the years that physicists are now proving. Everything is energy that we perceive as objects is a concept that I feel like I can accept easily. Energy has a radiation, I look at that energy, it takes the shape of the objects or people in the room.
So this makes the objects simply energy. When I decide, "that is a nice table" or "we really need to upgrade our bedroom set", it is a judgment I have made over a neutral energy form. The feelings that get generated, and the beliefs I decide to carry forward from those judgments and feelings, are completely up to my whim.