I was walking my dog on another oddly mild December day here in Denver, Colorado, the kind of weather that would have catapulted pre-A Course in Miracles Susan into a frenzied contemplation of the inevitability of global warming. But today, in the throes of another imaginary interview with Jesus, the symbol of the one mind healed of the thought of separation the Course uses to lead us home to the one Love we never left, I wanted to truly understand the allure of my continuing impulse to take this dream and the figures that appear to populate it seriously. Including the figure I still believe I am. I wanted to know how to answer students who constantly wonder aloud how we can possibly live in a world of bodies without believing we’re forgiving something real, i.e.; the ostensibly bad behavior of other bodies. How we can possibly swallow that most frequently repeated yet continually startling lesson in the workbook: “I am not a body, I am free,” while witnessing the deterioration of the bodies of those we love, let alone our own bodies.

After all, I had dreamt last night of a family member’s death, and was now moving like a plant toward the sun, hoping to soak up Vitamin D-infused rays to heal the ribs I had cracked on another walk a few weeks earlier in which I was trying to rid my body of the tension caused by a host of perceived external demands that seemed to have overloaded my vulnerable brain. Today, I was also hoping to stave off the effects of winter light deprivation and serotonin impoverishment while spending a little quality time with Jesus, a win-win activity for body and right mind. The sharp angle of the winter sunlight stained the walls of the brick and stucco homes around me pink. Dry native grasses bent generously in the wind; dead leaves clattered against the bike path pavement winding along the gulch sending my little dog spinning in appreciation.

As I paused a moment, gazing at houses “protected” by elaborate alarm system, surrounded by fences designed to keep the bad behavior of other dream figures at bay, it came to me—our embarrassingly irresolvable predicament, I mean—in a way I had never quite considered before. I could feel the nothingness of it all; the nothingness within my seeming body and the nothingness without. I could somehow sense the nothingness within the yards and the homes around me, the nothingness in the bodies moving without and within, the nothingness of my little dog now sitting at my feet on the pavement; tilting her head and sniffing as if having caught a whiff of it too, the rare scent of healing.

For a moment I was acutely aware that my body—like the yards and homes and bodies around me–was truly a defense against the truth, my identification with it the major block to real Love’s awareness the Course speaks of. For a moment, I could see with the Holy (Whole) Spirit’s true X-Ray Vision, feel the nothingness of it all, and give thanks for the abstract unity we remain despite all these elaborate shields our belief in the ego’s tale of separation from God invented to protect ourselves from our father’s impossible retaliation. To keep us so busy defending our doomed fortresses that we forget completely about the real, abstract, everything with which we remain universally fused.

“The ego has built a shabby and unsheltering home for you, because it cannot build otherwise. Do not try to make this impoverished house stand. Its weakness is your strength. Only God could make a home that is worthy of His creations, who have chosen to leave it empty by their own dispossession. Yet His home will stand forever, and is ready for you when you choose to enter it. Of this you can be wholly certain. God is as incapable of creating the perishable as the ego is of making the eternal.” (A Course in Miracles, Chapter 4, page 55, paragraph 11.)

We spin out our days striving to make our impoverished house stand, an impossible task based on a lie. But when we choose to look with Jesus at all we have created to defend against the Love we believe we squandered in our selfishness but have in truth never left, we see beyond form to the content of guilt in the one mind. A content resulting from a perceived violent act against our creator that never happened. Our bodies will come and go within an ego thought system frantically trying to justify its existence at God’s expense by keeping our denied guilt over that original belief in separation realized alive, projecting it outward into endless neighborhoods of forms fighting for bogus survival. But when we take responsibility for our perception of vulnerability at the hands of others back to its source in the mind and offer it to true vision, the absurdity of it all can only yield a smile and a deep sigh of relief as the memory of our uninterrupted, all-inclusive innocence returns to our mind. Until we become afraid again.

On the way home, we turned a corner and almost ran smack into a coffin descending the steps of a picture-perfect Anglican Church on the shoulders of grieving parishoners. I caught the tear-stained eyes of a woman about my age following the procession, and wanted to beam her my confidence in what I had felt but moments earlier. But not wishing to intrude, I instead dropped my eyes to the pavement and crossed the street.

“I am not a body, I am free.” I repeated workbook lesson 199 in my head in an effort to resurrect my former certainty.

“Easy for you to say,” the ego weighed in. He had a point. The truth is, I don’t have any idea how I would react if I were facing the death of this body I still think I am except in the holy instant in which I forgive another form I think has compromised my peace and observe my attachment to judgment, attack, defense and yes–guilt over having taken the tiny mad idea of separation seriously–with Jesus. Fortunately, looking with my inner, kindly amused Jesus day in and day out at all the external manifestations of an inner condition I would use to hurt me and prove I exist at whole Love’s expense, interviewing him despite the fact that he—you know, doesn’t really talk—is enough.

We cannot possibly fully understand that we are not bodies, we are free as we look at the dream figure we identify with staring back at us in the mirror every morning. But we can free ourselves from the body of guilt in the mind by forgiving the walls we have erected to imprison us and choosing to look beyond every single one of them with Jesus as our teacher to our abstract innocence, the uninterrupted everything we share and remain.

We can remember, as workbook lesson 264, “I am surrounded by the Love of God,” reminds us:

“…For what surrounds Your Son and keeps him safe is Love itself. There is no source but this, and nothing is that does not share its holiness; that stands beyond Your one creation, or without the Love which holds all things within itself…”

Author's Bio: 

Susan Dugan blogs weekly about practicing A Course in Miracle's extraordinary forgiveness in an ordinary life at www.foraysinforgiveness.com. Her book of personal forgiveness essays, EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY FORGIVENESS, will be published in March 2011 by O-Books. She appears in the film A Course in Miracles: The Movie along with renowned ACIM scholar and original editor Kenneth Wapnick, PhD, best-selling Course author Gary Renard, and other ACIM teachers.