[For copyright reasons, I'll begin these posts with the general gist of the lesson, and post a link to the full version]
Lesson One: "Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything."
Leave it to ACIM to start with a doozy. I attempted this lesson a few months ago, and it went something like this:
I perched on my bed, legs crossed, shoulders relaxed. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I decided that I looked very zen and nodded approvingly. I looked down at my feet.
"These feet do not mean anything," I said. (And a good thing, too, as they're possibly my least attractive feature.)
"This comforter does not mean anything." (Mm, hm.)
"That window does not mean anything." (Yep, okay.)
"That cat does not mean anything." (But he does, I countered. I love that Squishy cat; he means everything to me. This doesn't make any sense.)
At this point, I was totally distracted and fidgety. Lesson failure.
But, you know, A Course in Miracles has a peculiar way of availing itself to me when I least expect it. During my trip down the Cape, as I meandered down the dune path at Hardings Beach, it occurred to me to try the lesson again.
Maybe it was the sunlight streaming down, warming my sunscreen-slathered limbs. Or maybe it was the salty wind, racing over the waves, dipping, diving, sweeping past me as I walked along the sand. Or the persistent lap, lap, lap of the water breaking on the shore. Whatever the reason, I felt at that moment very connected to my surroundings. The boundaries of my body seemed fluid, and if I didn't think too hard about it, I wasn't entirely sure where my feet ended and where the crumbly sand began.
"That seaweed does not mean anything."
There was a pause and then, a thought: "I don't believe it."
"That wave does not mean anything."
And then the thought: "That's insane, it's sparkling and beautiful. How can that not be real?"
It was the beauty part that really threw me for a loop. I was taught that God made this place, and that when we see the beauty, the grandeur, the supreme loveliness of Nature, we can thank God for it. And quite honestly, I never feel closer to God than when a hike on a wooded trail or a sandy beach forces me to look outwardly, to put aside for a moment the inner work that at times is so all-consuming. So I am hesitant to jump on this wagon, even though I want to. I want to free myself from attachment to whatever is unreal, that is, whatever is not love. I want to peel away the layers of emotional baggage and ego and what-have-you, and reveal the pulsating, glowing being of love that's inside me. But I don't understand this lesson, and I guess that I'm not quite ready to give up certain attachments. For now, the ocean is still very real to me.
The Course teaches that this world is a dream. It's often a painful dream, and it is our goal to transform it into a happy dream. When we do, it will fall away and then, well, something awesome happens. I think maybe Enlightenment? An awakening? Heaven? I'm not that far in my reading yet. Stay tuned.
As for this first lesson, I count it a success, and it's only because of the pause. It was a brief pause, for sure. But there was a tiny moment before the thought of disbelief came rushing in, a moment between thoughts that intrigues me. Since my mind wasn't involved at all, I struggle to define what occurred during that pause. I don't understand it, but I think it's the key to a door somewhere.