I usually shop for vegetables at a market that sells local vegetables at a very reasonable price, but in a hurry the other day; I ended up in a regular chain supermarket. Looking for fruit and vegetables I came upon my favorite tomatoes in the vine which I usually buy for 99 cents a pound, but to my surprise and outrage they were $2.99 a pound! Five feet to the right I saw pineapples for $1.39 a pound. I weighed one of them on the scale and calculated that each pineapple was at least $6.70; more than double of what I usually pay. The half gallon of organic milk that I pay $3 dollars for was $3.89 and so on and so forth….
As I walk up and down the aisles picking up what I need, there is a part of my mind that is noticing every opposing thought and laughing. I notice my mind throwing a mini tantrum over the quality of the produce, the prices, the layout of the store; almost everything about being in this store at this moment seems wrong. All these conflicting thoughts seem magnified and I realize how little it takes for a mind to react. I don't need the big issues like health care reform, or the war to get me going – an afternoon shopping trip at the 'wrong' store will do.
The practice of A Course in Miracles encourages us to watch our mind for all the little reactions. These reactions, or grievances, are what stand in the way of our experience of perfect Love and by noticing them we take away their power over us. That part of our mind that observes as the ego reacts to the world is our right mind. The right mind holds the memory of our true identity as one with God. Being in our right mind is watching ourselves react with the ego, but without judgment.
I am reading a book called "I Am That," about the teachings of Sri Nisgardatta Maharaj, an enlightened guru from India who lived in the 20th Century. He says that it's not by searching for truth that we awaken, but rather by understanding ourselves, or the ego we think we are.
He says: "What you are, you already are. By knowing what you are not, you are free of it and remain in your natural state," p. 26. And, "Study the prison you have built around yourself by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know your Self," p.5.
The prison walls, which are made of judgment, fear, and even our most subtle opposition to what is, begin to crumble as we notice the ego's purpose operating within our mind. The ego's existence depends on our believing that the dream is real. It's by our reacting to the dream that we keep it real. So it's our not reacting, or for a while consistently watching ourselves react without judgment that undoes the ego and the "tiny mad idea" that according to the mythology of A Course in Miracles is the cause of the separation.
The Course says that "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." (T-27.VIII.6:2)
The tiny mad idea is the impossible claim that separation, time, and space can take the place of perfect Oneness. It's the suggestion that an illusory world, however convincingly serious, can take away our peace. It's what's behind the outrage over the price of tomatoes, the grief over the loss of something we cherish, or the belief that we are all different from each other. All reactions to the dream keep us equally focused on the world and make it real for us. The Text says it's the Son of God's reaction to the tiny mad idea - his taking it seriously -that gave birth to the thought of separation that caused the world as we experience it.
In his forgetting (to laugh) did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. (T-27.VIII.6:3)
In my early days of studying the Course, I often felt trapped. I understood intellectually that this existence is just a dream, but I didn't know what to do about it. I imagined the tiny mad idea happening a long time ago and I thought of myself as suffering the effects of a choice I had no control over. But it's our present choice to accept and reinforce the thought system of separation that keeps it real. Every time we mentally oppose a thought, a person, a feeling, or a situation, what we are inadvertently doing is reenacting the moment when we took the tiny mad idea seriously.
Each reaction says the world is real because it can be the cause of our upset. If the world is capable of causing a reaction in us, it must mean it is real. Illusions can't cause real effects. The only way to undo the tiny mad idea is to laugh at it now. We laugh at it by looking at the world through the lens of the miracle which reminds us that there is no cause in the world. The images in front of us, however compelling and enticing, are not real and they can have no effect on us unless we give them power over us. A situation can affect our body, our financial situation, our property, but we it cannot take away our peace unless we identify with the dreamer in the dream. As the Chapter 27.II.7 says: "The miracle establishes you dream a dream, and that its content is not true."
It is important to understand that the forgiveness work that we do is always mental. It has nothing to do with the actions we take in the world. Not reacting doesn't necessarily mean that we don't react verbally or physically if we're attacked. What it means is that our focus is always in our own mind. We watch our ego involvement in every situation. We notice how much we want things to be different than they are and how much we believe that if things were different then we would be happy. We watch how when we feel anxious, our instinct is to leave our mind where the real solution is, and instead we put our full focus on changing people or situations so that we can regain our peace. For a while noticing is all we may be able to do.
As we become more aware of the ego in our mind we begin to see that it always responds with knee-jerk thoughts and reactions, but it's not who we are. We can watch it react all it wants with our right mind and still remain at peace. We don't have to attach ourselves to its drama. I like this quote from Sri Nasgardatta Majarah. He says: "My life is a succession of events, just like yours. Only I am detached and see the passing show as a passing you while you stick to things and move along with them," p.4.
The only way to begin to walk back up the ladder that separation led us down is to become conscious of how we support the dream in our daily lives. Watch your mind. Notice the thousands of reactions you have each day. Each one of them says the world is real. Through forgiveness we can begin to withdraw our support of the dream and increasingly, we will begin to see that the prison walls that seemed so solid, are nothing but a thin veil that cannot stand in the way of the Love and Peace that is our true nature.
What waits in perfect certainty beyond salvation is not our concern. For you have barely started to allow your first, uncertain steps to be directed up the ladder separation led you down. The miracle alone is your concern at present. Here is where we must begin. And having started, will the way be made serene and simple in the rising up to waking and the ending of the dream. When you accept a miracle, you do not add your dream of fear to one that is already being dreamed. Without support, the dream will fade away without effects. For it is your support that strengthens it. (T-28.III.1:1-7)