A Course in Miracles, Lesson 133
Sometimes in teaching there is benefit, particularly after you have gone through what seems theoretical and far from what the student has already learned, to bring him back to practical concerns. This we will do today. We will not speak of lofty, world-encompassing ideas, but dwell instead on benefits to you.
You do not ask too much of life, but far too little. 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. 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. There are no satisfactions in the world.
Today we list the real criteria by which to test all things you think you want. Unless they meet these sound requirements, they are not worth desiring at all, for they can but replace what offers more. The laws that govern choice you cannot make, no more than you can make alternatives from which to choose. The choosing you can do; indeed, you must. But it is wise to learn the laws you set in motion when you choose, and what alternatives you choose between.
We have already stressed there are but two, however many there appear to be. The range is set, and this we cannot change. It would be most ungenerous to you to let alternatives be limitless, and thus delay your final choice until you had considered all of them in time; and not been brought so clearly to the place where there is but one choice that must be made.
Another kindly and related law is that there is no compromise in what your choice must bring. It cannot give you just a little, for there is no in between. Each choice you make brings everything to you or nothing. Therefore, if you learn the tests by which you can distinguish everything from nothing, you will make the better choice.
First, if you choose a thing that will not last forever, what you chose is valueless. A temporary value is without all value. Time can never take away a value that is real. What fades and dies was never there, and makes no offering to him who chooses it. He is deceived by nothing in a form he thinks he likes.
Next, if you choose to take a thing away from someone else, you will have nothing left. This is because, when you deny his right to everything, you have denied your own. You therefore will not recognize the things you really have, denying they are there. Who seeks to take away has been deceived by the illusion loss can offer gain. Yet loss must offer loss, and nothing more.
Your next consideration is the one on which the others rest. Why is the choice you make of value to you? What attracts your mind to it? What purpose does it serve? Here it is easiest of all to be deceived. For what the ego wants it fails to recognize. It does not even tell the truth as it perceives it, for it needs to keep the halo which it uses to protect its goals from tarnish and from rust, that you may see how “innocent” it is.
Yet is its camouflage a thin veneer, which could deceive but those who are content to be deceived. Its goals are obvious to anyone who cares to look for them. Here is deception doubled, for the one who is deceived will not perceive that he has merely failed to gain. He will believe that he has served the ego’s hidden goals.
Yet though he tries to keep its halo clear within his vision, still must he perceive its tarnished edges and its rusted core. His ineffectual mistakes appear as sins to him, because he looks upon the tarnish as his own; the rust a sign of deep unworthiness within himself. He who would still preserve the ego’s goals and serve them as his own makes no mistakes, according to the dictates of his guide. This guidance teaches it is error to believe that sins are but mistakes, for who would suffer for his sins if this were so?
And so we come to the criterion for choice that is the hardest to believe, because its obviousness is overlaid with many levels of obscurity. If you feel any guilt about your choice, you have allowed the ego’s goals to come between the real alternatives. And thus you do not realize there are but two, and the alternative you think you chose seems fearful, and too dangerous to be the nothingness it actually is.
All things are valuable or valueless, worthy or not of being sought at all, entirely desirable or not worth the slightest effort to obtain. Choosing is easy just because of this. Complexity is nothing but a screen of smoke, which hides the very simple fact that no decision can be difficult. What is the gain to you in learning this? It is far more than merely letting you make choices easily and without pain.
Heaven itself is reached with empty hands and open minds, which come with nothing to find everything and claim it as their own. We will attempt to reach this state today, with self-deception laid aside, and with an honest willingness to value but the truly valuable and the real. Our two extended practice periods of fifteen minutes each begin with this:
I will not value what is valueless,
and only what has value do I seek,
for only that do I desire to find.
And then receive what waits for everyone who reaches, unencumbered, to the gate of Heaven, which swings open as he comes. Should you begin to let yourself collect some needless burdens, or believe you see some difficult decisions facing you, be quick to answer with this simple thought:
I will not value what is valueless,
for what is valuable belongs to me.
I can only give what I own or what I have. I can’t give what does not belong to me. But the meaning “have”, “own” or “belong” exist only at the mind level, but not the body. It will be correct to say that all these connotations have a further meaning of possession in it. Considering that possession is a mind interpretation, then it would be hypothetically correct to say that when we look at all objects in the world or for that matter everything in the world, whether it is as close as to my pocket, or something that is out there, like a house, a car or a company, they are all lifeless as it can be, merely objects for usage, but not to hold on.
Even the body cannot be said is mine except as a tool for use, for me to experience life. But, that does not equate to me not having to take care of what does not belongs to me. In fact, that’s the problem when the meaning of possession comes into play – what is mine I take fervent care of and what is not mine is none of my business. Imagine if possession is totally out of question but instead everything is here for me to experience, then the meaning of respect comes into picture as I am merely a passerby connecting with what is here for me; for soon it can pass my way for another to experience it. Though others may not be able to experience the body that I am having but yet they can too, share the experience of what I use with my body.
Imagine giving a clear definition of a world of objects and a world of minds and what we get is that what is physical is lifeless, and what is non physical, unseen and intangible, is the only interaction the mind has with each other. If this is truly a realization instead of merely intellectual information, then I will be free with what is within my reach. I will realize that money is only a means for me to use, not to hold back. The house is not my own except a shelter for me to be under. My mind will then has no definition of resisting or holding on to any objects as it clearly sees that the meaning of possession or belonging does not make any difference or impact to what is already here for me to experience except dis-ease. Whether the watch is mine or not makes no difference to the watch per se. Only my interpretation of it makes me use the watch recklessly or caringly. My ideas dictate the fate of watch.
For that when I am holding back my giving, I have to reconcile with my ideas – what ideas am I having that disallow me to give freely – only then can I be free. Thus, giving, in absolute truth, is an illusion – as, if there is nothing that belongs to me, how is then giving possible? Would it be correct to say that giving is encouraged simply because there is a holding back in my mind? That the act of giving is to nullify the meaning of possession at the mind level so as to bring us back to freedom?
Hence when I give, I don’t give because I am happy to give or because I have something to give but rather out of a clear understanding that each quality of giving is an indication of how much I have held on to the meaning of possession, an idea that binds me to an illusion. I can’t cheat myself from saying that since nothing belongs to me there is nothing to give, for I can only know when I am being faced with the test of giving. Similarly, when I am being given the opportunity to receive, am I in resistance? What am I holding back that disallows me to receive freely? Both giving and receiving are merely opposite sides of the same coin – showing me how much I held on to ideas that give me the meaning of what is right and wrong. Clinging is the problem, not the world. Ignorance is the cause.