It was a crisp early morning when the monk decided to meditate away from the monastery. At a nearby lake, he unmoored a canoe and rowed to the middle of the quiet water. There he closed his eyes and began his meditation.
After a few hours of peaceful silence, he was suddenly jolted by another boat colliding with his own. Deeply frustrated but with eyes still closed, the monk pondered: “The lake is plenty large for more than one boat. How could someone have been so careless and insensitive?”
He attempted to continue his meditation, but anger arose within him. “I think this was done intentionally. To purposely thwart my inner peace.” Unable to continue his state of deep presence, the monk opened his eyes ready to confront his tormentor.
Yet he beheld an empty boat nestled up against his. It had likely been adrift for several hours and randomly chartered into his location.
At that moment the monk understood the nature of anger: it is fused from within and simply requires the merest bump of an external element to be unleashed.
Everything that goes on around us, and every person we encounter – no matter their role in society – represent that empty boat. They are not the cause of our anger or any other emotion. We germinate and stoke the fire of every feeling we have. And then we use the empty boats as objects of our projection. “You did this to me. It’s your fault I’m upset.”
John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost contains many extraordinary verses, but perhaps none more powerful than this:
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
Written three-hundred years before A Course in Miracles, this stanza beautifully articulates the concept that the mind is the source of all our experiences.
Like the angry monk, we attribute our pain to external sources. Self-awareness is the recognition that we’ve got it backwards. Everything that happens, happens in the mind. Our bodies simply experience what we first made real in the mind.
By observing our feelings – particularly the ones that grip us in their claw-like vise like anger and fear – we start by seeing not empty boats but cruelly captained ships with malicious intent. Then as quickly as possible, we recognize that we must have chosen the ego mind and thus have made a hell of heav’n. Choosing instead the mind of spirit, while our eyes may still land on viciousness and ignorance, we see beyond the form.
Then, and only then, are we in a position to react in a way that will be most helpful, most loving, and most effective for the situation. Because at that point, we’ve become self aware and progressed on our path toward awakening.
Join me in Thursday’s Zoom session (open to anyone interested in ACIM) where we’ll dive deeper into the nature of self and explore practices we can leverage to help us become more self aware and peaceful. I look forward to seeing you then.
Wishing you and your loved ones peace.