Perhaps one of the most persistent questions in the mind of students of A Course in Miracles is: Why don't I see more miracles in my life? We wonder, if this is supposed to be a course concerning miracles, why our lives seem so lackluster and devoid of the miraculous.
I would say there are two main causes for such questions in our minds. First, I believe that to some degree the absence of miracles is a misperception based on a misunderstanding of what miracles are. Second, I think that we are, in ignorance, failing to meet the conditions for miracles. I'd like to address both of these causes, the first just briefly, and the second in more depth.
A Misunderstanding of What Miracles Are
Most of us have more miracles in our lives than we realize. We just fail to recognize them for what they are because we are looking for something else. We have an erroneous idea of what a miracle is, and so we are looking for something that is not a miracle and overlooking something that is. Here is a brief definition of a miracle, based on the teaching of the Course (see Chapter 1 of The Answer is a Miracle, by Robert Perry and Allen Watson, published by The Circle of Atonement, for the derivation of this definition):
A miracle is the activity of the Holy Spirit that shifts our perception from false to true and thereby grants us unconditional, instantaneous and free deliverance from the imprisoning (yet illusory) problems of this world. We accept miracles (into our own minds), extend them (to others) and so recognize that we have received them.
It is important to recognize what is not included in that definition. Miracles are not occurrences in the external world; they are an activity of the Holy Spirit in our minds. If we think of miracles as external events such as receiving a lot of money, having our body healed, or finding a parking place in a "miraculous" way, we are often going to be disappointed, because those are not the kind of miracles the Course promises to deliver. I don't mean to say that the Holy Spirit does not, at times, arrange events in the world, engineer meetings with other people, or touch our minds in ways that bring healing to our bodies. He does those things, and the Course plainly says He does see (T-20.IV.8:4-7, T-15.V.10:7, and T-19.I.2). Those things, however, are not miracles. Sometimes they are the result of miracles (for instance, when your body is healed because your mind has welcomed a healed perception); sometimes those external events have no direct connection to a miracle (as when the Holy Spirit arranges for you, without your even knowing it, to meet someone who needs your help).
If you recognize a miracle for what it is, you may realize you have more of them than you have been aware of. That moment when you were tempted to judge your spouse or friend, and then, recognizing that their seeming mistake or attack is merely a manifestation of fear and not a reason to withhold your love, you found your judgment suddenly melting away into love—that's a miracle. That sense of peace that came over you despite threatening circumstances—that was probably a miracle. Whenever you find your perception suddenly and perhaps inexplicably changed from something dark and imprisoning to something light and liberating, a miracle has occurred.
Failing to Meet the Conditions for Receiving Miracles
Even when we are clear about what miracles are, we may not recognize or receive them in our lives. Miracles—in the sense of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal our perceptions—are constantly being extended to us. The Course teaches us that miracles are always present in every situation if we are open to seeing them (W-pI.91.1:4-6). Behind every problematic situation there is a miracle, waiting for us to recognize and accept it (W-pI.89.2:2).
What opens our eyes to the miracles hiding behind the circumstances of our daily lives? In a word, forgiveness. Or, in a bit more detail, we come to recognize miracles for ourselves as we are willing to grant them to others. We receive miracles by giving them.
Workbook Lesson 159 tells us that miracles are received by "giving them away" (W-pI.159.2:4-5). There is a three-step process involved here that is seen all through the Course. First, you receive a miracle in your own mind. Second, you extend that miracle to others, granting them the right to be blessed along with you. Third, as you do this, you finally and fully recognize the miracle that was given you in step one. Until that extension happens, the process is not complete.
If you stop at step one, you will quickly doubt the reality of the miracle, or you will simply overlook it. I think this is one of the most important teachings of the Course. As Robert and I so often point out, extension is a crucial ingredient in the Course's curriculum. If you refuse to extend the miracle to your brother or sister, deeming them unworthy of it, you will end up denying it to yourself as well. This is why the Course says flatly, "You cannot perform a miracle for yourself" (T-9.VI.3:3). That's very important to realize: You can't give yourself a miracle! Why not? "…because miracles are a way of giving acceptance and receiving it" (T-9.VI.3:3). Miracles involve someone else by nature of what they are. They are "an exchange" (T-1.I.9:1); they are "a service…the maximal service you can render to another" (T-1.I.18:1-2). Miracles always involve yourself and others; you can't receive a miracle alone. Every miracle you receive represents some opening in your mind to the rest of the Sonship, some recognition of our shared Identity.
To truly receive a miracle for yourself you must give it to others. This is why, in the curriculum of the Course, "Salvation is a collaborative venture" (T-4.VI.8:2). You simply cannot experience complete salvation by yourself because "by yourself" is not how God created you in the first place.
When you extend a miracle to another person, you are cooperating with the Holy Spirit in their mind to induce a shift in their perception of their problem. This strengthens the other person, and you find yourself strengthened in return. Any miracle is an extension of love, and giving love does not deplete love, it increases it. So, when you share a miracle, you learn that to give is to receive.
When I hold on to grievances, failing to extend the blessing of God to everyone around me, I simultaneously increase the difficulty of seeing God's light in myself (W-pI.69.title). I block my awareness of the miracles that are constantly available to me. The other day, I was listening to something my partner, Peggy, was saying, and realized that I was tensing up inside, judging what she said. My peace of mind was shriveling up. Then, realizing the effect that my judging was having on myself, I chose to let those judgments go; I chose to love her despite what I perceived as a less-than-perfect attitude on her part. In that moment, the darkness lifted, and I felt peace again. I could see Peggy as the holy child of God that she is. And that was a miracle. Judging blocks the miracle; letting go of judgment releases it.
The choice to offer a miracle is the choice to receive a miracle. It isn't two different choices; it is the same choice. The shift in perception in your mind that the Holy Spirit brings, the very thing that heals you, is the shift into a willingness to offer the miracle to your brother. "The problem is a grievance" (W-pI.90.1:5); that is what is blocking your reception of the miracle. So the removal of that grievance, the change of mind that is willing to share the holy instant with your brother, is what releases you: "The solution is a miracle" (W-pI.90.1:5).
Lesson159 is far from the only passage in the Course that teaches that we receive miracles by giving them. Other passages say the same thing in other words:
We will not recognize what we receive until we give it. (W-pI.154.12:1)
So would I liberate all things I see, and give to them the freedom that I seek. For thus do I obey the law of love, and give what I would find and make my own. It will be given me, because I have chosen it as the gift I want to give. (W-pII.349.1:1-3)
You receive what you want to find, and make it your own, by giving it to others. You choose what gift you want to give, and because you choose it, it will be given to you. You give to your brothers the freedom that you are seeking for yourself, and that is how you receive it.
One of my favorite anecdotes that illustrates this point is found in Ken Wapnick's account of the scribing of the Course. At one point, Helen asked Jesus to help her in some way. Jesus said to Helen, "How often have I answered 'help him' [referring to Bill Thetford] when you asked Me to help you?" (Absence from Felicity, p. 299). Jesus was telling Helen that, instead of asking for help for herself, she could have been offering help to Bill, and in so doing, finding the help she was looking for. Extending miracles to others and helping others is the way we can open ourselves to receiving our own miracles.
Call to mind someone you know of who is asking for help. Try not to be distracted by the "form" that his or her asking might be taking, which might seem like attack. With that person or situation in mind, apply these thoughts, asking for a miracle for the person or situation as sincerely as you can:
As I offer miracles and love to [name the person or situation], I am receiving miracles and love.
No one can lose, and everyone benefits, when I offer a miracle to [name] (T-25.IX.10:3-4).
If I am willing for [name] to receive the holy instant, I can also share this instant with the Holy Spirit.
Miracle are the instants of release I offer to [name], and will receive (T-15.I.12:4).