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Greetings! It's been a while since I've had time to send out a newsletter, due largely to an abundance of work opportunities. It feels like a nice problem to have – although it's forcing me to practice setting limits.
Thank you, as always, to those of you who have sent me check-in emails. I always appreciate hearing from you.
In this newsletter, I'll be staying with the format I used last time: an article followed by a couple of questions-and-answers. I enjoy this format (which I used in my books as well) because it allows me to go a little "deeper" in the Q&A section.
Unveiling the Masterpiece
When I first began working with A Course in Miracles, an image came to me. I saw my life as an unfolding tapestry – a scroll-like tapestry that unrolled before me from moment to moment. The tapestry was filled with lovely art that flowed by, each masterful scene replaced by another.
And yet, instead of simply appreciating the unfolding masterpiece, I was scribbling wildly over it. My efforts were creating a chaotic mess. I hated the discord – and yet I continued to scribble, smear, and carve my own imagery over the otherwise-lovely scenes.
At the time, I was pining over an unrequited love. I woke up each day hurt, angry, and resentful – and proceed to overlay my days with bitter thoughts and feelings. The image of the tapestry helped me to recognize that beneath my bitterness there was beauty – peaceful scenes and experiences waiting to be had. And yet, as long as I scribbled, I saw only chaos.
This is one of the main themes of A Course in Miracles: our job is not to create beauty, happiness, or love. Instead, our job is to simply stop interfering with it. The beauty is there; we will see it when we stop scrawling over it. Happiness and love is already there as well. We simply need to quiet our minds and open our hearts to accept it.
How completely different this is from what the world teaches! We're generally taught that our lives are empty canvasses – or open landscapes. It's up to us to create (or find) whatever we want to fill the blank space. And yet many of us end up profoundly disappointed, even when we find or create exactly what we thought would make us happy!
The Course has a different teaching. It says that a divinely-inspired happiness is already there, waiting to burst through into our awareness. This happiness is neither created by us, nor something that we externally seek for. It is given to us freely.
And yet, this happiness needs an opening. It waits for us to lay down our interfering activity – our egocentric desires, our self-concepts, our discordant thoughts of any kind.
The glorious masterpiece is waiting to reveal itself – a masterpiece that unfolds from moment to moment in an unending experience of beauty. But we cannot see it while we write our own version on top of it. It requires us to quiet our own interfering activity, and become peacefully, openly receptive.
Quieting and Opening
In order to support this process, there are some rather unusual practices that A Course in Miracles lays out in its workbook. Several of the earliest practices involve looking around ourselves and saying, in effect:
I do not know how to look at this [thing, event, person].
I do not know what it means.
I do not know how to respond to it at all.
To many people, this sounds rather silly. To look at a familiar object, person, or event and say, "I don't know what I'm seeing" seems bizarre. And yet, this is a way of setting down the paintbrushes that we are using to obscure the masterpiece. It releases the old perceptual frame. It quiets the interfering activity of the mind.
Having admitted that we don't know how to look at the world before us, we can then turn to a new way of seeing. We may say something like:
If there is a masterpiece before me, I would like to see it.
I wish to see the beauty in this [thing, event, person].
I am open to experiencing a sense of divinely-inspired happiness and love.
We then become receptive and inviting of a new perception – a new experience of the world before us. This, says the Course, is all that is asked. We quiet our own interference, and open to the masterpiece that we had been obscuring.
Readers of my newsletter know that I often reference Joel Goldsmith, a twentieth-century spiritual healer. Joel's great insight was that he – as a healer – needed do nothing except cease his own interference to healing. He didn't have to "create" healing. He simply needed to give it room to reveal.
In his practice, he would become quiet, open, and receptive to an experience of the masterpiece. And he would invite his patients to join him in this experience. His only job was to welcome that experience of the divine – and this process was enough to bring healing to thousands.
The Course says that we too can become open and receptive to a new experience. We can see the divine masterpiece; we can hear the inspired song. It is there, every moment, for the welcoming – regardless of how many layers of interference we have laid over it.
Nor do we have to wait to experience it. We can lay down our interference for one "holy instant" at a time, starting right now. Even a momentary glimpse at the masterpiece will inspire us – a single moment without any interference. A moment in which the mind quiets, the heart opens, and a new, lovely vision arises.
Let me now share a couple of questions that I sometimes receive on this topic:
Q: I do try to quiet and open my mind when I meditate. But it's usually anything but peaceful. It seems that when I try to quiet my mind, it just gets more agitated. Are there any other ways to practice this type of thing?
A: Meditation or receptive prayer is certainly a primary way of laying-down the interference of the mind, and opening to that experience of the masterpiece. However, it's not the only way.
One parallel practice in the Course is to look around at the people in your life, and do a similar release-the-old and receive-the-new perceptual shift. You might, for example, identify the thoughts that you hold toward a co-worker. Thoughts, perhaps, like:
"She's kind of a complainer."
"She's not the type of person I trust."
"She's always looking out for herself."
Those are obscuring thoughts that interfere with the perception of her spiritual worth, beauty, and glory. Those are the scribblings laid over the masterpiece. You might then look at this same co-worker and say:
I have no idea how to look at this person.
I am willing to lay down every thought I have about her.
I do not wish to project my own thoughts upon her.
And then quietly, openly, receptively welcome a new perception of her – a perception that reflects the spiritual masterpiece that she is.
For people who have trouble sitting quietly in a meditation-style activity, this interpersonal approach can be more accessible. See Workbook lesson 78 (or 121, or 134) in the Course for a similar practice.
(Incidentally, when A Course in Miraclestalks about "forgiveness," it's referring to this divinely-inspired shift-in-perception type practice.)
Q: I agree that seeing things differently is important. However, how does that translate into dealing with the practical issues in your life – real-life issues like your job and your relationships?
A: Seeing the masterpiece is essentially an inner shift in vision. But that shift can yield profound changes in thoughts, feelings –and actions.
Many people read the Course as essentially promoting a change in perception. However, that perceptual shift isn't without echoes. The Course refers to possible "action aspects" of the shift – and it encourages us to allow the new perception to guide us actively in our lives.
As we see the masterpiece, we may simultaneously receive inner guidance on actions to take regarding our jobs, our relationships, and other aspects of our lives. Seeing the masterpiece isn't a passive experience. It opens us in a dynamic way to new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.
Thank you, as always, for your interest in my newsletter. I invite you to share it with any friends who may be interested. And I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback.
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