It is a testament to the brain’s craving for efficiency that we don’t really see what is in front of us (at least that’s my story). I think of the lazy people fact:
If my brain doesn’t need to bother, it won’t. So, when I read this morning’s lesson, it didn’t surprise me (well, especially considering this isn’t my first go-round with the Course lessons) to be reminded that I don’t actually see. I see the past. I see only the past. It’s like when you live with someone and one day you look up and notice that you haven’t really seen them in a while. (A phenomenon that can be proven by changing your hair. Ladies, how many times have you had to point out to your man that you cut four inches off your locks or added purple highlights to your previously brown hair? If you don’t call his attention to it, chances are excellent that he will take a few days to pinpoint what is different, that is IF he ever notices at all.) We overlook the familiar, or at least I do. I “know” it, so I don’t bother to “see” it (or even experience it).
Today’s lesson in A Course in Miracles is Lesson 7.
I see only the past.
This idea is particularly difficult to believe at first. Yet it is the rationale for all of the preceding ones.
It is the reason why nothing that you see means anything.
It is the reason why you have given everything you see all the meaning that it has for you.
It is the reason why you do not understand anything you see.
It is the reason why your thoughts do not mean anything, and why they are like the things you see.
It is the reason why you are never upset for the reason you think.
It is the reason why you are upset because you see something that is not there.
Old ideas about time are very difficult to change, because everything you believe is rooted in time, and depends on your not learning these new ideas about it. Yet that is precisely why you need new ideas about time. This first time idea is not really so strange as it may sound at first.
Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it?
Look about you. This is equally true of whatever you look at. Acknowledge this by applying the idea for today indiscriminately to whatever catches your eye. For example:
I see only the past in this pencil.
I see only the past in this shoe.
I see only the past in this hand.
I see only the past in that body.
I see only the past in that face.
Do not linger over any one thing in particular, but remember to omit nothing specifically. Glance briefly at each subject, and then move on to the next. Three or four practice periods, each to last a minute or so, will be enough.
It wasn’t until I was doing this lesson that I realized how Zen-like the Course is (notice how quickly I want to relate it to something I already know, LOL). I used to listen to a lot of Alan Watts, so of course, I wanted to tether the lesson to that, to something I knew.
In our Tuesday night group, the concept of time always messes with our minds. We can’t wrap our minds around time as anything but linear. We forget that what we are seeing is filtered through what we have seen, and in that way keeps us from being present to what is.
And time is seductive. None of us is as young as we used to be so it’s easy to think it’s real. We look around and things change. People are born and people die. So, of course, we believe in it and think of it as linear, and divisible into past, present, and future. And all of this ebb and flow of life seduces me into thinking that the past means something, that I can lean on it to explain things.
I see only the past. I try not to, of course, because the very act of trying erodes spontaneity, but I have ideas about things. I bring those ideas into whatever is in front of me to do or be.
It’s a mindfuck and it’s exhausting to step out of the illusion; and a little terrifying.
I do these lessons with the purpose (because being human, I like to have a purpose, a goal, a reason for doing what I do), I do them with the purpose of waking up. Of learning to see. I do these lessons, and for a little while, I feel alive. My body buzzes. There is an openness to it, a sort of wide-eyed innocence that spills into this suspended now perched upon this noticing what is without superimposing what I think should be on top of it.
But, I don’t know how to stay there. In the background, life calls me back to the illusion (which, ironically, I tend to think of as reality). But it’s like being sucked into a movie or a book: the story ensnares me. I start to believe that it is reality. It moves me and shapes me and simultaneously keeps me from being present to my own life.
I forget sometimes how challenging it can be to be fully present. As I was doing my morning pages this morning, I wondered about what it is that makes me listen to my ego and embrace resistance rather than listen to my higher self and embrace flow. I suspect the answer is fear. I have a habit of choosing my ego’s idea of safety; it’s a sort of risk aversion. I notice it and it shocks me. I notice how entrenched I am in my egoic identity. I mean, I must be: how else could I be so good at allowing myself to choose resistance. Isn’t that just me saying no to life????
And in this twisted sort of way, every time I am not present, every time I see only the past, isn’t that exactly what I’m doing – saying no to the life that I came here to live? I’m resisting what is.
How often does that happen in my everyday existence, as I layer the past atop the present? How often do I neglect to see what is right in front of me because I am caught up in my ideas about how I think things are or should be? My ego wants to proclaim me special enough to keep from doing it more than most people, but isn’t that just something else I made up?
I feel like I’m floating in space. Then the fear claws at me and I panic a little as I try to cling to now in an attempt to distance myself from the feeling that I’m wasting my life.
If I listen to my ego, I start to feel as if life is rushing by me and I’m missing it. I think about all the things I could have/should have been doing rather than wasting time on these silly blog posts and guilt knocks at my door and begs me to let it in.
As least if I were better at being humorous it might feel less like I’m pissing in the wind. But I tend to take it all rather seriously, this business of writing and thinking and courting God like some crazed love-struck schoolgirl.
(I must. I waste enough fucking time on it!)
I see only the past.
Will I wake up? Can I? I have work to do and I don’t want to do any of it. Isn’t that just more of the same? Or could it possibly be a message to stop wasting life on things I don’t really want to do?
I see only the past. Which is why it’s really illusion. The past is gone. How can I see what’s not there? I must be making it up.
It doesn’t occur to me that if I love it, then, what the hell: love the fuck out of it. Embrace it!
Because that damned ego of mine wants to suck all the joy of its life with its shoulds and its guilt. What would happen if I stopped doing that?????
What would happen to you if you did?
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.