Creation balanced with rest is the pattern that has been taken to extremes within your world. You think of birth as creation and death as rest. You do not realize that your nature, and the nature of your life, like that of all around you, is governed by seasons natural to the state of love, seasons of regeneration. T4:4.2
I don’t think I’ve written yet about the quiet of snow. It is so lulling, a cushion to the battering ram of noise, a lessening and an expanding at ground-level, a solace willing to envelope sound and make it new. The new year has arisen and right on cue I’m feeling a new sense of engagement. I’m as psyched as the squirrel who greeted me as I approached the cabin tossing goodies of nuts and bread. I could hear his rustling anticipation before I caught sight of him scooting down a far tree. Moments after I’d closed the cabin’s door behind myself, he was dodging about like a football player, jumping here and there in a zigzag path to . . . food.
My new sense of engagement began last week when I posted the audio of ACOL Chapter 23 to our Course of Love Facebook Group. (See A Course of Love Facebook Page) After listening to it myself, I became fascinated by the use, within the chapter, of the word “engagement,” and I noted this fascination (or it was more like it noted itself—post-it-noted itself to my consciousness). You know how that is. If you’re not feeling engaged, engagement probably isn’t going to draw you to itself. It’s part of why, in our various readings of ACOL, our shift in focus alerts us to the changes we’re feeling. So this is what happened to me and the feeling of it grew over coming days, even to seeing the word “engagement” all over the place. As I did, I felt myself veering in one moment toward passionate engagement—like okay I’m ready and excited for the ACIM Conference and “big” outward experiences, and in another toward an inner contemplation of engagement and passion’s seeming opposite. With this, I began to realize that, much like the ebb and flow of vitality that occurs with the seasons here in Minnesota, there is an ebb and flow to how Jesus speaks of engagement in ACOL.
There is a general tone toward the start that says: disengage from the life. Right away in Chapter 1, Jesus talks of our actual desire, at that time, to engage in struggle and chaos. Not doing so, he says, is something we see as an abdication. We want to prove ourselves in the world or prove our control over our world. We want to play the game even if we feel we can never win. (C1:14)
It’s not until Chapter 23 that the word “engagement” arises in a different way. It is no longer “disengage from life” but now is “engage with life.” In Chapter 24 this engagement is described as moving through unlearning to new learning. “This engagement is a promise, a commitment. It requires participation, involvement, attention, being present.”
Still, as early as the first Treatise, disengagement arises again as we’re asked to turn always toward peace and away from the drama of life.
As I watch light come to the day, the sky changing from its dark indefinite hue to one of color that blazes and then fades into the blue of day, I sense the seasons of our travels through this Course, my own stages of learning and unlearning, and the cyclical feel of them. Jesus admits to “stages of learning” only once, in A Treatise on the New…drawing that line of demarcation between what came before the Dialogues and . . . The Dialogues. Here he is assuring us of the “dawning of the consciousness of unity.” (T4:12.25)
All of which I share with you to get to the culmination of this exploration, revealed in Day 27, which is aptly titled Apprehension of Levels of Experience. “You have been asked to let go of uncertainty, not certainty. You have been assured of a certainty you never before believed you were capable of. This certainty is beginning to form within you but will not come into its fullness except through experience. This certainty has only been able to begin to form within you because you have agreed to this mountain top experience while remaining engaged in life. You have thus begun to experience on two levels. This has been a goal of the time we have spent together in this way.” (D:Day 27.2)
What permission that is! What recognition! We are not only assured of, but have trained for, new experience and new levels of experience. It is our experience of life itself that will be new. No wonder engagement is called for.
The certainty we gain through “felt” experience is different than the certainty we feel from experiences of form, but not unrelated. What we feel called to is varied. Ninety percent of us will likely not climb an actual mountain, will not go on actual pilgrimages, will not leave behind the form of our current 21st century lives. Most of us will experience the dawning of the consciousness of unity as the new reality we awaken to as we discover more and more of what is inside of us and ready to come out, and what is invisible to our ordinary senses “out there” but present to and in-forming our lives. You might say that receiving A Course of Love was a matter of experiencing on two levels. All around us, more and more people are willing to share the many and varied experiences that are happening beyond the scope of the ordinary. It may no longer sound like a peculiar anomaly to have a musician say that her song simply arrived, or that the light it came in was not the idea light bulb. As we share, our experiences cease to stand —“over there,” outside of the acceptable, happening only to the extraordinary, separated from the common person, or “other than” what we can consider to be within the nature of our being.
Coming to know is not an aspect of the mind alone. It is not an aspect of the spirit alone. Coming to know is a quality of inner-sight, of wholehearted human experience combined with spiritual experience. You are and always have been both human and spirit, both form and content. Now you contain within you the ability to combine both levels of being through the experience of life. You have already been doing this. You are, in fact, becoming well-practiced. (D:Day27.6)
When we accept our lives as they are, and our calls to change as they arise, we live life like the little children within the ebb and flow. What ACOL calls us to is akin to my understanding of what the Buddhists call beginner’s mind. It is an openness to what is in front of us, a delight in our own experience, an awareness of it, and an appreciation for the experiences of our companions, to whom we can pose dozens of questions, letting our curiosity run wild without any notion that there might be anything in another’s experience to envy or that requires respectful distance. You and I can marvel at our own experience without any sense of bragging or being self-centered. In childlike innocence we’re just sharing and engaged with living and the discoveries that openness bring. We are not shy of new experiences. We sense before we comprehend, see vividly before we identify (if we identify at all), and find our awareness of what is beyond form and time to be both natural and miraculously wonderful.
And then, too, we might cry when the unfamiliar catches us off-guard, and be more than ready for comforting and a nap. Seasons. The current ebbing and flowing, washing our stones, clearing our pools.
What delights me about all of this is the call to change and to remain who we are, both at the same time. I’m so prone to enjoying my life as it is that I am often not thrilled at the thought of new experiences. This time has reminded me that both are possible for me and for each of us.
There are many ways that can still be found to come to the truth. But a way of getting to the truth will become so attractive that few will be able to resist. What will make this choice so attractive will not be martyrs and saintly souls stricken with every calamity and yet remaining to tell those who would listen about the glory of God. What will make this choice so attractive are ordinary people living extraordinary, and miraculous, and observable lives. T3:19.16
Again I invite you to the ACIM Conference and to the ACOL gathering that will follow it, to something new in form, and to sharing that won’t be able to help but be heightened by our togetherness, our ordinariness, and our extraordinary and miraculous and observable lives.