What do you think when you hear the word "miracle"? I don't mean in discussion about the Course; I mean in normal life. When you hear someone exclaim, "It was a miracle!" doesn't something inside you feel lifted? Why? What does that statement mean? Roughly translated, I think it means: "The situation looked impossible; there appeared to be no way out. But then, against all odds, we were delivered." Of course, "we were delivered" often means "by a hand from above." In fact, the first definition of "miracle" in Webster's dictionary is: "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."
The word "miracle" speaks to a deep need inside the human mind. More than just an occasional situation in life looks impossible. Life itself looks impossible. We seem to be imprisoned in so many ways, beset with so many endless problems, faced with so many dangers, that it seems impossible that we will ever be completely free. We pray for deliverance from particularly dreadful situations; we don't dare hope for deliverance from our entire dreadful condition. Yet, in some secret place inside, that is what we yearn for, and I think we respond to the word "miracle" because it contains a spark of hope that that yearning might one day be fulfilled.
How many of us were first attracted to the Course because of this word in its title? That there could be a course in miracles, something that could teach us how to have miracles, seemed an amazing possibility. We dove into the Course with great excitement, waiting eagerly for our share of miracles. Then we learned that miracles are defined in a different way by the Course, and we saw that on most pages of the Course miracles were not mentioned, and we found that miracles in our own lives were few and far between. And gradually most of us, I think, lost our enthusiasm for the word "miracle."
I think that we need to rekindle our enthusiasm. For the past few years I have been trying to identify more with the word "miracle." I have been trying to identify the miracles I experience and use that word to describe them. Lately, what has struck me on this subject is the promise of a miraculous life. The Course, after all, does not just want us to have a few isolated miracles to tell stories about. It wants to transform and uplift our entire existence. It wants us to live in a miraculous condition, a state of grace, where miracles are "as natural…as breathing" (T-21.V.3:4).
What would this life look like? To begin with, it would be a life in which the negative emotions that seem to hold us in their grip were dispelled quickly and easily, as soon as they arose. This, of course, is the sense of "miracle" with which Course students are most familiar—a miracle as an inner shift, an inner healing. This, also, is the kind of miracle with which we are probably most personally familiar. Most of us, I assume, have had moments when we felt our perception suddenly shift, and our negative feelings instantly drop away.
Imagine a life in which this were not just an occasional occurrence, but the norm. As soon as you felt fear about not being able to pay your bills, you would turn to the Holy Spirit and let Him shift your perception and dispel your fear. As soon as you felt depressed about your life, you would invite the Holy Spirit to lift that dark cloud from your mind. As soon as you felt grief over the death of a loved one, you would allow the Holy Spirit to work a miracle within you and heal your heart. Your constant willingness to receive a miracle would let "no false perception keep [you] in its hold, nor represent more than a passing cloud upon a sky eternally serene" (W-pII.300.1:2). Imagine a mind like that—pconstantly serene, as peaceful as a clear blue sky, such that anytime an emotional cloud appeared it would dissipate just as quickly as it formed.
A mind like that would be able to work miracles in the minds of others. No matter what our spiritual beliefs are, I believe we all want to do that. It is so difficult to see friends and loved ones suffer. To sit by, feeling as if our hands are tied, can be unbearable. The Course does want us to find peace in the face of suffering, but it also wants us to realize we have the power to heal it.
I have often been struck by how Jesus and Buddha responded differently to the same situation. When Buddha was asked for help by a mother whose son had just died, he told her to bring him a mustard seed from a house that had not known death. When she couldn't find such a house, he said that was the lesson: Death is part of life; our peace must come from detaching from a world filled with suffering. Yet when Jesus was approached by a father whose daughter had just died, he responded very differently: He went to the house and brought the daughter back to life. I am fond of both stories. Both strike me as very Course-like. Yet I find the second story, with its focus on the miraculous, closer to the heart of A Course in Miracles. There are so many passages where the Course teaches that within us is the Power to lift the veil of suffering from those around us, and so prove that that veil has no power over God's Son.
Perhaps we have overlooked these passages, but they are everywhere in the Course. There is Lesson 38, which asks us to think of painful situations in the lives of others and say, "In the situation involving________in which [name] sees himself, there is nothing my holiness cannot do" (W-pI.38.4:6). Do we take that line seriously? Just in case we do not, that same lesson gives us these words:
Through your holiness the power of God is made available. And there is nothing the power of God cannot do. Your holiness, then, can remove all pain, can end all sorrow, and can solve all problems. It can do so in connection with yourself and with anyone else. (W-pI.38.2:2-5)
Imagine leading a life in which this was actually demonstrated. Think of the situations around you now in which you feel powerless to help. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to walk on the scene and, because you were there, see the situation lifted from darkness into light? Wouldn't it be glorious to do this wherever you went, both through your actions and through your mere presence? Not as a statement of how great you are, but as a genuine gift of love?
A final aspect of the miraculous life is that our own problems will disappear quickly and easily. As Course students we often think that miracles are not there to heal the problems in our lives, only to heal our minds. Yet the Course often speaks of miracles as the way to resolve our problems. It even calls miracles "the Holy Spirit's problem solving" (T-25.IX.5:1). Why do miracles solve problems? The Course sees a problem as something in our lives that presses suffering onto us, something with apparent
…power of injustice and attack. [Yet] no one can be unjust to you, unless you have decided first to be unjust. And then must problems rise to block your way. (T-25.IX.7:6-8)
Let's look closely at this passage. First, we decide to be unjust to others, to be unloving, unkind. Second, problems show up in our lives that treat us unjustly. The question is: Why does the first lead to the second? I think the answer is this: When I decide to be unloving, I feel guilty. I therefore unconsciously believe that I deserve a problem-filled life. As a result, I dream a myriad of problems into my environment as a way of giving myself my "just" deserts. God is not punishing me for my sins (as I may be tempted to conclude); I am punishing myself for imagined sins.
How is this pattern healed? It started with me imprisoning others by being unjust to them, so it ends with me releasing them by giving them a miracle. This act of kindness dispels the guilt which was the source of my outer problems. The effect is like turning off a movie projector: The problems cease to be projected onto the screen of my life. The Workbook mentions this phenomenon: "The miracles I give [to others] are given back in just the form I need to help me with the problems I perceive" (W-pII.345.1:4). The message is unmistakable: I give a miracle to someone else, and then some problem I have been faced with is miraculously solved. Clearly, I receive more than just inner healing. The phrase "form I need" suggests an outer form; and "problems I perceive" suggests a problem I see outside me. In short, while I busy myself helping others, I find that my own problems vanish of their own accord.
Can you imagine living a life like the one I have described? Your mind becomes as serene as the open sky. Any disturbances that cloud this sky evaporate quickly and without a trace. This serenity is contagious: It is able to shine from your mind into the minds of others, lifting them from despair into joy. Rather than feeling powerless to help, you see situations visibly uplifted wherever you go. And when you look at your own life, you discover that, while you were absorbed in helping others, your problems effortlessly cleared up. Your whole life becomes like that serene sky, in which problems may appear, but only briefly before they vanish into thin air. Such a life, in its amazing ease, would be an earthly mirror of the heavenly condition: "In your natural state, there is no difficulty at all because it is a state of grace" (T-7.XI.1:8).
I have to ask myself: Who lives a life like this? I certainly do not. I have had many examples of the occurrences I just described. I have had my upset feelings healed countless times by practicing the Course. I have here and there been able to make a difference in the lives of others. And I have seen problems of mine clear up without my effort; there were even times when I knew it was because I had helped someone else. Yet such occurrences are still far from the norm. They don't define my life, even if they do grace it from time to time.
So, again, who lives such a life? If you think about it, the life I described is not a new concept. We are all familiar with that sort of life, and we all know who leads it: saints, great spiritual masters, holy men and women—people experientially close to God. It is the life of the highly spiritually evolved. And that is the point. A miraculous life comes with spiritual advancement. It is the natural offshoot of real spiritual maturity. It is the perfume given off by the rose in full bloom. It doesn't come because you own a book, or because you have learned spiritual concepts. It comes because you have truly been transformed inside, and though you walk the same earth as the rest of us, you live in a different world.
How do we reach this state of complete miracle-mindedness? If only we had a course that could teach us how! I am sure you see the point of my tongue-in-cheek remark. That is what A Course in Miracles is for: to teach us how miracles can become "as natural…as breathing" (T-21.V.3:4). Hence, if we want more than just an occasional miracle, if we want to live a miraculous life, then we have one option: to truly take this course. If you attend a biology course and you genuinely want to learn biology, then you have to really take that course. You have to do everything it asks of you. If you own A Course in Miracles and you sincerely want to learn how to have miracles, then you must do everything this course asks of you. You must deeply study its text, diligently practice its workbook, and selflessly extend its forgiveness to others as a teacher of God. This is one course where you can't fool the instructor and you can't skate by with good test-taking skills. You have to really do the work.
So let us rekindle our enthusiasm about miracles. The Course's promises are not empty. The life I described is no fantasy. It has been lived by countless men and women through the ages, and it can be lived by us. Let us see it as the treasure that awaits us. But let us also realize that to find that treasure, to reach that life of amazing ease, we have a lot of walking and a lot of digging to do. And we have a map to show us the way. Let us pick up our gear and follow it.