While you know you have not allowed yourself freedom of expression, you believe you have allowed yourself freedom of thought. You believe you have allowed yourself freedom of feeling. And yet if the truth be admitted, you know that even this is not quite true. You know that you censor your own thoughts and feelings, accepting some and not others. D:Day 9.7
As I sit at my cabin window each morning, I am here for a certain feeling of freedom that comes of habitual presence. It’s a time of being free of thoughts that concern anything in particular. Not “things to do.” Not “sensitive situations.” Not next week’s events or next year’s obligations. This morning I realized I’ve been chastising myself for mind-wanderings that do not meet my definition of freedom. Even when an idea arises that is just the right idea to free me from some knotty little problem with something I’m working on, I get a little miffed. I have told myself I’m not “supposed” to be thinking of “that” at this time.
Case in point. This morning an idea arose that had to do with the ACIM Conference next year. Its theme is Change your Mind/Change the World, nice, broad theme that each presenter is asked to speak to in their way. No problem. But in submitting my description of my presentation, I failed to put this theme in the title and was reminded that it needed to be there. As I was sitting with my meandering thoughts, a new title presented itself: Changing the world takes being present as all that you are. It felt just right. And this is what suddenly made me realize that I’ve been attempting to censor the very freedom I’ve so desired.
This realization came on Friday morning, and in the evening, just before I was about to begin my grandson Henry’s bedtime ritual, a ritual that always includes reading, I took a moment to check email and received one about . . . reading. My friend Paula had been reading The Secret Garden. And so I wrote a response that was all about reading, and that led to memories of my young self and the flyers that would come to us, at school, from Scholastic Books. This started when I was in fifth grade and eager to read and especially keen to choose my own books. I would pour over the contents that were offered and receive my new books with a pleasure approaching nirvana. Although I can recall few titles other than Silas Marner, I can still remember the feel and particularly the smell of those books.
That email exchange felt like the freedom I’d been craving as I abandoned myself to that memory. It was sparked by my friend and in response, what rolled out felt like the most natural thing in the world. It’s what happens in relationship.
This exchange added to the other—an exchange I’d had with myself—and resulted in a new understanding that what “comes” to us is the effect of a cause that is in our nature, that has basis in our lives as lived thus far, and the lives unfolding before us. What “comes” is the combining, the relationship between life and Self.
Yet this unfolding is not unlike Henry’s Friday visits with his best friend, Caleb. Over years of being consistent and diligent, having his friend over is effortless. I know this little boy and delight in him almost as much as I do Henry. Both boys, at nearly nine, are beginning to have real conversations with each other and with me. They tell me about things and it thrills me. I continually get to know them better. And this all formed out of the years of devotion that preceded it—not unlike what I do each morning, or my time spent with A Course of Love.
It was many years ago that I realized that the inner life, contrary to what I’d seen it as before, was not about thinking. In ACOL, Jesus makes a distinction between thinking and thought, and guides us to recall moments of what we call “thoughtfulness.” He does this to help us distinguish the new way from the old. Chapter 12 of the Dialogues became a wonderful re-read after this little squabble I had with myself. “Thinking” is described as the “active and often unwelcome voice “ in your head, the voice of background chatter. (D:12.10) “Thoughts” are described as “the more meditative version of your “thinking,” often even resulting in a conclusion to your thinking, a summary of the finer points, as what might come to you in a reflective moment at the end of the day. Again we will see the idea of thoughts “coming to you” at such times. This is not the “thinking” of a conflicted and struggling mind, but the “thoughts” of a mind at rest.”
Finally, Jesus says that, “You do have, right now, and have always had, true thoughts that come to you from your Self, the Self joined in unity. These are thoughts you did not “think,” just as the first receiver of these words received them as thoughts she did not “think.” (D:12-11)) He goes on to say that “Union isn’t achieved with a flash of light from above,” but that it quietly infiltrates the self in its unguarded moments. (D:12.12)
I fully believed I had come to respect meandering mind in all its vast wanderings. Now, being less than embracing of “useful” thoughts seems as silly as discounting all the steps that have led to such lovely times in the companionship of two small boys, or intimate email exchanges that elicit memory and bring pleasure.
Yep. Changing the world takes being present as all that you are.