“When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness….” ACIM, Workbook page 245, Lesson 133.
Lesson 133 starts by telling us that it will deal with practical concerns and it reminds us that “There are no satisfactions in the world.” It then gives us a number of criteria by which to decide whether what we are striving for is of value or not. If we choose something that is temporary, then it has no value; if we choose something that belongs to someone else, then it has no value; and if what we desire makes us feel guilty, then it is definitely an ego goal and, therefore, has no value. “Heaven itself is reached with empty hands and open minds, which come with nothing to find everything and claim it as their own.” In other words, we can reach Heaven without any of the things we think we need here on earth. But we do need to have an open mind.
All of us on this planet believe this world has something to offer and that there are things of value here; if we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t be here. We would have already ascended and given up on this world. This is explained clearly in the following passage: “No one who comes here but must still have some hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside of himself that will bring happiness and peace to him. If everything is in him this cannot be so. And therefore by his coming, he denies the truth about himself, and seeks for something more than everything, as if a part of it were separated off and found where all the rest of it is not...” T617. The problem is that if we continue searching for idols within the illusion we will remain trapped. “The lingering illusion will impel him to seek out a thousand idols, and to seek beyond them for a thousand more. And each will fail him, all excepting one; for he will die, and does not understand the idol that he seeks is but his death...”
It might help if we look back and take stock of our lives. Are there any repeating patterns? Are there things that we seem to keep doing in our lives that aren’t really very helpful to our growth as spiritual beings? Then we can ask ourselves if there any changes we could make which would speed us on our journey Home. If we are happy to keep going the way we always have done in the past, maybe we aren’t quite ready yet to relinquish the ego. That should not cause us too much concern because the time will come when we are ready. In the meantime, we could help ourselves by asking, “How can illusions satisfy God’s Son?” (Lesson 272) Eventually, it will become apparent that illusions can’t satisfy us.
To return to the criteria just mentioned, most things in this world have only temporary value because nothing lasts forever in the world of form! If we think of all the things in our lives we will realise that they cannot endure to eternity. This was, in fact, one of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. And clinging to things in the world of form or wanting things to last forever is the cause of suffering, according to Buddha.
The second criterion deals with valuing things that belong to others. How often do we take things that belong to others or, at least, try to do so? When we wage war on another country because of something it has that we desire, such as water, oil, land or mineral wealth, we are valuing things that belong to others and, therefore, listening only to our egos. How can we expect to gain from this if we remember that by taking something from someone else we are, actually, taking from ourselves because we are all one? “Who seeks to take away has been deceived by the illusion loss can offer gain. Yet loss must offer loss, and nothing more.” W246. This means that in any war there can be no winners—both sides lose. How much suffering we could avoid, if our political leaders were able to understand this!
Another criterion listed in Lesson 133 deals with the reason why we value certain things. “Why is the choice you make of value to you? What attracts your mind to it? What purpose does it serve? Jesus is asking us here to check and see if what we value is of value to the ego or to the Higher Self (i.e., the Holy Spirit in our right minds). If it serves the ego’s goals of specialness and separation then it has no value.
Finally, if our desires make us feel guilty they are obviously ego-driven because only the ego can experience guilt. This is because the whole thought system of the ego is based on the original guilt the mind experienced when it decided to split away from Heaven. Examples of desires that cause us guilt include entering into a relationship with a married person, cheating, stealing and acting violently towards someone, to name but a few.
As we have seen, Lesson 133 warns that if we focus on the body, on things to buy or on eminence in this world we will find suffering instead of happiness. This is because these things cannot last forever and they are ego-based, so if we strive for them we will simply be chaining ourselves to the wheel of life. Up and down and round and round we will go, repeating the same mistakes as we waste our time on illusory things instead of rising above the world, overcoming the ego and finding the Truth.
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