Jesus states clearly in A Course in Miracles (ACIM) that “An untrained mind can accomplish nothing.” ACIM, W-in.1.3 This being the case, it is essential that in order for any authentic Awakening to come into our experience, we must do the mind training. I myself fell into what is a common trap for a lot of ACIM students and teachers—taking deep truths such as “I need do nothing” (ACIM, T-18.VII) and “It’s all an illusion” and using them as spiritual platitudes, which actually keeps us managing our beliefs, values, and concepts instead of going through any authentic healing. I read an article by Daan Dehn, who so beautifully describes the two phases of ACIM. He states:
I have begun to see that the Course, like many other mystical documents, is written on two levels—one let us call the horizontal, or mundane, level. At this level, it seems understandable enough and appealing to the ordinary intellect and relevant to our “normal” earthly life. It uses terms and concepts with which we are familiar, and we tend to interpret and evaluate the Course its concepts and its efficacy using our typical linear and relative thought patterns—”my” ego, “more peaceful,” “more joyful,” “progress,” “evolution,” etc. This is the level for the student who is casual or merely curious. While participating at this level may plant some seed deep within the mind, it does not even begin to approach the real fundamental teaching of the Course.
For some, there seems to come a time, usually after years of intense devotion to the Course (or any other spiritual path for that matter), that something changes radically. The Course no longer seems to “work,” at least not in the sense that many testimonials say it does. This is a crucial time; many quit at this point and go shopping the metaphysical buffet for another “path” that “works.” Yet here is the real beginning of A Course in Miracles. What is happening? In the Manual for Teachers section on the development of trust, the Course outlines six steps, or phases, that a Teacher of God goes through. A thorough rereading and understanding of these steps should allow one to answer this question for himself.
It was my experience a couple years ago that I had indeed hit the ceiling of the “Phase I” experience of ACIM. I felt like I was not deepening, and yet I kept hearing that I needed to go deeper. But I had my own plan for Awakening and it wasn’t until I completely relinquished that plan (of trying to mix illusion and truth) that I was able to begin to step into “Phase II.” This is quite a different phase and one that most students of ACIM if caught in the “I need do nothing” and “It’s all an illusion” phase, do not want to undertake. Phase II is the really deep spiritual undoing of the self-concept. It’s taking a look at all the attachments and idols and saying to the deceived mind, “I am afraid but I will look at you anyway!” As Daan Dehn states so clearly, “Phase II, then, is the ‘dirty work,’ so to speak. It is learning to really read and hear the Course. It is not the fun or exciting part, nor is it comforting or consoling. It is only the dull, unintelligent, ego-brain that seeks and needs fun and excitement or comfort and consolation, failing to recognize that all these are but more blocks to the awareness of Love’s Presence.”
This is a time of deep surrender to the unseen power that is pulling us towards it. It is not a time of feeling good or applying spiritual pink paint, with a beginner’s awareness, to deep, deep teachings (such as “I need do nothing” and “It’s just an illusion”) that take a tremendous amount of undoing before they can be authentically applied. There is no way someone in Phase I can grasp the beauty and depth of what those phrases even mean. It’s ego arrogance to pick them out and wear them as if they were understood at all. This is a time of looking closely at the fact that we do believe we are separate bodies living with private minds and having a human experience. This is the lie that has to be questioned and authentically released so that the Spirit can lift us above the battlefield. Without a firm, dedicated devotion to the undoing of all we think we are and what we think we know, we will never taste the truth of what lies under all of our self-deception. We are Spirit—free, innocent, and loving—and all that is not that has to be brought up and seen as false.
It is my experience that there are several steps at the beginning of Phase II. One is recognizing that when Jesus says we need to look at every value we hold, he actually means it:
The world that seems to hold you prisoner can be escaped by anyone who does not hold it dear. Withdraw all value you have placed upon its meager offerings and senseless gifts, and let the gift of God replace them all. (ACIM, W-127.8:3-4)
Each thing you value here is but a chain that binds you to the world, and it will serve no other end but this. For everything must serve the purpose you have given it, until you see a different purpose there. The only purpose worthy of your mind this world contains is that you pass it by, without delaying to perceive some hope where there is none. Be you deceived no more. The world you see holds nothing that you want. (ACIM, W-128.2:1-5)
All things you seek to make your value greater in your sight limit you further, hide your worth from you, and add another bar across the door that leads to true awareness of your Self. (ACIM, W-128.3:4)
Now that is a radical and uncompromising teaching! What are we valuing above our relationship with God? What idols do we cling to? As Jesus states in ACIM, even the dreams you think you like are traps of the ego: “The dreams you think you like would hold you back as much as those in which the fear is seen. For every dream is but a dream of fear, no matter what the form it seems to take.” (ACIM, T-29.IV.2) They must be questioned—these are the “sacred cows” in the ego’s arsenal for keeping our light hidden under the bushel. The bushel is all the idols we are unwilling and too fearful to even approach. I had to look at all the places where I was putting my mind energy into what Jesus calls a “wild hallucination.” “What if you recognized that this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it?” (ACIM, T-20.VIII.7:3-7)
I had to begin to question all the different ways in which I was going further into the illusion rather than releasing its hold on me. This takes careful consideration. Once I had surrendered my plan for healing, the Holy Spirit became the means for the “how” and things began to shift rather quickly. It felt disjunctive and counterintuitive to the ego, but thankfully, Jesus lays it out so beautifully in the Manual for Teachers that at a certain point, you will not go on alone but you will have “mighty companions” by your side. The Spirit provided the strength I needed in the form of way-showers who had walked through the darkness of their own minds to get to the light. Like a beacon of light, they held a steady presence as I began to let the mask fall. I now know, without any doubt, that the Spirit’s ability to give us everything is limited only by our clutching and clinging to the things of this illusory world. Jesus states in Workbook Lesson 129, “Our emphasis is not on giving up the world, but on exchanging it for what is far more satisfying, filled with joy, and capable of offering you peace.” It is my fullest joy to witness that every seeming fearful step in this undoing is worth it. God’s will for me is perfect happiness!
We have dedicated our lives to the release of the obstructions to the beautiful awareness of Love’s Presence. This is a love that has no object and flows freely and beautifully through the mind. It is not conditional on circumstances. It is a deep contentment. Using Living Miracles Monastery as a blanket of light, we join together in purpose and uncover the egoic patterns that produce fear in our minds so that the living experience of what the Course promises us can come forth. Many have come and found, as this deep excavation is allowed, that the alchemy begins to take place in the mind and as described in the Course, “In this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself.” As this glimpse of the real world begins to dawn on a clouded mind, we begin to walk more fearlessly towards that which has always been calling us home. Retreatants from around the world come to experience the first uneasy steps into the deeper application and understanding of the Course’s teachings. I am always honored by their courage and devotion to follow an invisible inner pull that can no longer be resisted.