An important concept that occurs quite frequently in A Course in Miracles is the idea that there is no good or bad in the world because everything is neutral; it is only our minds that interpret things as either good or bad. This is an extremely empowering idea because it means we shouldn’t let the world get us down, no matter what is happening in our lives. In practice this is not easy. Yet, if we are to learn the lessons of ACIM, sooner or later we will have to give up the idea that we are victims of the world we see, and acknowledge that all the things that occur in our lives are caused by our own thoughts.
Jesus tells us in Lesson 190: “It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your minds can hurt or injure you in any way. There is no cause beyond yourself that can reach down and bring oppression. No one but yourself affects you. There is nothing in the world that has the power to make you ill or sad, or weak or frail. But it is you who have the power to dominate all things you see by merely recognizing what you are….” The last sentence quoted here shows just how empowering this lesson is. If we are feeling frail or ill or weak then we know that we have identified with the ego instead of the Holy Spirit. But how can we overcome feelings of frailty or weakness? “As you perceive the harmlessness in them, (i.e. all things we see) they will accept your holy will as theirs. And what was seen as fearful now becomes a source of innocence and holiness." ACIM, Workbook Lesson 190.
In Lesson 21 of The Way of Mastery, Jesus asks us to rise above the duality of good and bad. He asks us to regard both good and bad events as neutral. He asks us to allow things to happen, such as burning the toast, the rain pouring down, the end of summer, etc. Just allow all things – both good and bad because if we resist, we will suffer. We need to allow change to occur because change is inevitable in this world. Allowance brings with it a sense of freedom and it is a form of forgiveness.
It is interesting to note that in The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, speaking to Arjuna about the characteristics of a sage, says that he “…neither rejoices nor sorrows if fortune is good or is ill, his is a serene wisdom.” He also says, “The man…whose soul is one, beyond pleasure and pain, is worthy of life in Eternity.”
So where do we start if we want to react in the same peaceful manner to both pleasure and pain? We could start, firstly, with small things. We could, for example, make a conscious decision to accept the cold weather if winter seems to be dragging on and on, instead of complaining about it. We could try to stay calm when the car breaks down, even if it means getting to work late. We could try to carry out our daily chores with a smile instead of a grimace. We could frequently remind ourselves that change is inevitable here. And, above all, we could focus on our goal—awakening. We could remind ourselves, as Lesson 190 suggests, “ I choose the joy of God instead of pain."
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