"I Need Do Nothing" Discussed
I’ve written a few times about how the heading in A Course in Miracles, “I Need Do Nothing” (T-18.VII), is universally misused by ACIM students. They read this line and their ego (personal thought system) panics because they think that they are not supposed to direct the self to do anything at all ever again so their life in the world will fall to pieces. And then their mind shuts. They are then unable to take in anything that follows that heading and they miss the point of that section entirely.
(A study hint: If you read something in ACIM that inspires fear you are misreading it with the ego. Truth inspires liberation, not fear. Put it aside for a while, then invite the Holy Spirit into your mind and read it again with Love. If you are still too afraid to let the Holy Spirit through then you may benefit from studying with someone who has more experience – like a mentor!)
The section headed by “I Need Do Nothing” is really about the release from guilt that you find in the Holy Instant. In the Holy Instant you realize that you are Home in God, not separate from God, so you are not guilty. Therefore, you “need do nothing” – you don’t have to perfect the self or make it “right” or “good” - to be released from guilt. This section has nothing to do with ceasing all activity of the body. It is solely about the mind. In fact, it acknowledges the “busy doing” of the body in the world.
Since this section is almost never read as it was meant, I thought I’d take you through it paragraph by paragraph to ease the anxiety that the heading seems to evoke in students’ minds.
(This is very long and it may be difficult to read on a small device. The italicized parts are from ACIM and from my translation of the Text into plain language, The Message of A Course in Miracles (MACIM). I use both here so you can choose which you prefer. My comments then follow and are not italicized).
(T-18.VII);(MACIM-18.7) I Need Do Nothing
1. You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. What plans do you make that do not involve its comfort or protection or enjoyment in some way? This makes the body an end and not a means in your interpretation, and this always means you still find sin attractive. No one accepts Atonement for himself who still accepts sin as his goal. You have thus not met your one responsibility. Atonement is not welcomed by those who prefer pain and destruction.
1. You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. All your plans involve the body’s comfort, protection, or enjoyment in some way. This means that you interpret the body as an end in itself and not as a means for correction and that you still find separation from God attractive. You have not accepted correction if you still have separation as your goal and therefore you have not met your one responsibility – accepting correction of your perception that you are separate from God. You will not welcome correction while you prefer pain and Self-destruction.
You have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. [The “body” in ACIM includes the physical body, the personality of the self, and the thought system of the self (ego)]. That’s why you are so concerned with it. You see it as an end in itself, so you are attracted to it. This means you are unconsciously attracted to guilt (the belief that sin, or separation from God, is real). Remember, elsewhere in ACIM it says that your “sole responsibility” is to accept the Atonement (correction of your belief that you are guilty for being separate from God) for yourself. Your attraction to the body, therefore your belief in guilt, makes you believe that correction is impossible. So you do not meet your one responsibility of accepting correction. You won’t welcome correction while guilt (pain and destruction) seems meaningful to you.
2. There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. It has perhaps faded at times from your sight, but it has not yet completely disappeared. You are not asked to let this happen for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens. Afterwards you will see the body again, but never quite the same. And every instant that you spend without awareness of it gives you a different view of it when you return.
2. There is one thing you that have never done: completely forgotten the body. Perhaps it has sometimes faded from your awareness but it has never completely disappeared from your awareness. You are asked to do this for only an Instant but in that Instant the miracle of correction happens. After that Instant you will be aware of the body again but never in quite the same way. Every Instant that you spend without an awareness of the body will give you a different view of it when you return to an awareness of it.
Helen is being told that she has not yet allowed a Holy Instant, Which is described here as completely forgetting the body for an instant. (As you read this you may or may not have allowed a Holy Instant). An instant is all that is needed. In that instant you realize that the body and the story for time are not real. You are not separate from God so you are not guilty. Even though it is only an instant, it is enough to change how you view the body. You begin to realize that the body has nothing to offer; it is just a temporary experience as you learn to remember God. The body is no longer an end in itself; it is a means to remember God. The more you experience the Holy Instant the less you value the body.
3. At no single instant does the body exist at all. It is always remembered or anticipated, but never experienced just now. Only its past and future make it seem real. Time controls it entirely, for sin is never wholly in the present. In any single instant the attraction of guilt would be experienced as pain and nothing else, and would be avoided. It has no attraction now. Its whole attraction is imaginary, and therefore must be thought of in the past or in the future.
3. There is no instant in which the body exists at all. You always remember it or anticipate it but you never experience it now. Only the personal self’s seeming past and projected future make the body seem real to you. Time controls your perception of the body entirely because your perception of separation from God is never wholly in the present. In any single instant you experience the attraction of separation from God as pain and nothing else and if you recognized this you would avoid it. Guilt has no attraction to you now. Its whole attraction to you is imaginary and therefore you must think of in the past or in the future.
Time is the illusion on which all other illusions rest. This includes the body. You have a story for the body’s (self’s) past and you imagine its future and this is what makes it seem real to you. Your attraction to the self’s story means that, unconsciously, you are attracted to guilt. The story for the body, which is the story of your guilt for being separate from God, contains stories of guilt from the body’s imagined past and you expect punishment for your guilt in the body’s future. You have a hard time being present because guilt arises in your mind and you experience how painful guilt is. So your mind avoids guilt in the present in an imagined past and an anticipated future in which you do not consciously see the guilt.
4. It is impossible to accept the holy instant without reservation unless, just for an instant, you are willing to see no past or future. You cannot prepare for it without placing it in the future. Release is given you the instant you desire it. Many have spent a lifetime in preparation, and have indeed achieved their instants of success. This course does not attempt to teach more than they learned in time, but it does aim at saving time. You may be attempting to follow a very long road to the goal you have accepted. It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Enormous effort is expended in the attempt to make holy what is hated and despised. Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.
4. Until you are willing to see no past and no future for just an Instant you will have reservations about the Holy Instant. You cannot prepare for the Holy Instant without placing It in the future. The instant that you desire the Holy Instant you will be released in It. In the world that you perceive one way to God is to spend your time preparing for the Holy Instant and this does have its moments of success. This course does not attempt to teach more than that path teaches in time but it does aim at saving time. You may be trying to follow a very long road to the Goal of God that you have accepted. It is extremely difficult for you to reach total correction of your perception that you are separate from God by fighting against perceived “sin”. You will have to expend enormous effort trying to make Holy the body that the personal mind despises. It is also not necessary for you to spend a lifetime in contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body. All these attempts would ultimately succeed because of their Purpose but these means are tedious and very time consuming and they all look to the future for release from a present state of unworthiness and inadequacy.
You must be willing to let go of time, the body, and therefore guilt, just for an instant, to experience the Holy Instant. That is all. If you think you need to prepare for the Holy Instant you are putting release from guilt off into the future. The belief that it takes time to be released from guilt puts distance between you and the Holy Instant. You don’t have to perfect the body (fight against sin), which is so difficult because the ego despises it. You don’t have to take yourself off to a cave or a monastery and spend a lifetime struggling to detach from the body. These would ultimately work, but they are the long way to peace because they make sin (guilt) real to you and put peace off to the future. Instead, you can use the Holy Instant right now and save time.
5. Your way will be different, not in purpose but in means. A holy relationship is a means of saving time. One instant spent together with your brother restores the universe to both of you. You are prepared. Now you need but to remember you need do nothing. It would be far more profitable now merely to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do. When peace comes at last to those who wrestle with temptation and fight against the giving in to sin; when the light comes at last into the mind given to contemplation; or when the goal is finally achieved by anyone, it always comes with just one happy realization; "I need do nothing."
5. Your way is different from these paths, not in Purpose, but in means. A Holy relationship is a means of saving time. One instant of Holiness that you extend to your relationship with another restores Reality to your mind. You are prepared for the Holy Instant and all that you now need to remember is that you need do nothing. It is far more useful now for you to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do. When Peace comes at last after wrestling with temptation and fighting against “sin”, when enlightenment comes after a lifetime of contemplation, or when the Goal is achieved in any way it will come with the happy realization: “I need do nothing”.
Helen and Bill are being told that they are given a different means, the Holy Relationship, to save time. But what can you, who may not have a Holy Relationship, do to save time? Remember from earlier in ACIM that the Holy Relationship is the expression in time of the Holy Instant. But whether you have this expression available or not the Holy Instant is still available to you and to everyone. No one needs to prepare for it. All you need is willingness to put aside guilt and experience God. The realization, “I need do nothing” to make yourself not guilty comes when you are willing to recognize that you are already not guilty.
6. Here is the ultimate release which everyone will one day find in his own way, at his own time. You do not need this time. Time has been saved for you because you and your brother are together. This is the special means this course is using to save you time. You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means which have served others well, neglecting what was made for you. Save time for me by only this one preparation, and practice doing nothing else. "I need do nothing" is a statement of allegiance, a truly undivided loyalty. Believe it for just one instant, and you will accomplish more than is given to a century of contemplation, or of struggle against temptation.
6. Here is the ultimate release that you will eventually find. You do not need time for this because time has been saved for you since you extended your Self to your perception of another. This is the special means that this course uses to save you time. You are not making use of this course if you insist on neglecting the means that was made for you in favor of other means. Save time for your Christ Mind with this one preparation and practice doing nothing else: “I need do nothing.” This is a statement of undivided allegiance to your Christ Mind. Believe it for just one instant and you will accomplish more than you would accomplish in a century of contemplation or of struggle against temptation.
The Holy Instant is the moment of release, or forgiveness, from guilt. It is the special means offered by ACIM as a short-cut for those who are willing to use it. You only have to be willing to realize that you “need do nothing” to make yourself guiltless because you have never left God and so are not guilty. Your willingness to use the Holy Instant attests to your commitment to peace. If you just accept for one instant the awareness that you are Home in God you accomplish in that instant what others have taken a century to accomplish through contemplation and attempts to make the self perfect.
7. To do anything involves the body. And if you recognize you need do nothing, you have withdrawn the body's value from your mind. Here is the quick and open door through which you slip past centuries of effort, and escape from time. This is the way in which sin loses all attraction right now. For here is time denied, and past and future gone. Who needs do nothing has no need for time. To do nothing is to rest, and make a place within you where the activity of the body ceases to demand attention. Into this place the Holy Spirit comes, and there abides. He will remain when you forget, and the body's activities return to occupy your conscious mind.
7. To “do” involves the body. When you recognize that you need do nothing you will withdraw the body’s value from your mind. This is the door through which you quickly slip past centuries of effort to escape from time. This is the way that the separation loses all of its attraction for you now because you deny time and the past and the future are gone for you. When you need do nothing you have no need for time. For you to do nothing is for you to rest and to make a place within your mind where the activity of the body ceases to demand your attention. The Holy Spirit then comes into and abides in this place of rest within you. And the Holy Spirit will remain with you when you forget again and the body’s activities return to occupy your conscious mind.
When you recognize from the Holy Instant that you don’t need to perfect the body to be with God and be released from guilt you release yourself from valuing the body. It, and therefore guilt, cease to attract you right now. You don’t need time to do this. You just need to rest in the Holy Instant with the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will remain in your mind when you return your mind to the body’s activities.
8. Yet there will always be this place of rest to which you can return. And you will be more aware of this quiet center of the storm than all its raging activity. This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent. For from this center will you be directed how to use the body sinlessly. It is this center, from which the body is absent, that will keep it so in your awareness of it.
8. There is always this place of rest within you. Within it you are more aware of the Quiet Center than of the storming personal mind raging around it. This Quiet Center in Which you do nothing remains with you and gives you rest in the midst of all the busy doing to which the Holy Spirit sends you. From this Center you will be directed in how to use the body for correction of your perception of separation from God. It is this Center, from Which the body is absent, that will keep you aware that the body cannot separate you from God.
The Holy Instant is always with you, a Quiet Place within to Which you can return to rest. The more you practice it the more aware you will be of a Quiet Center as you go about the body’s busy-ness. From the Quiet Center you will be directed how to use the body in a way that will not increase your guilt because it is from this Center that you know that you are not guilty.
As you can see, there is nothing in this section about ceasing all of the self’s activities. On the contrary, it makes statements in the last two paragraphs that acknowledge the activities and busy-ness of the self. Moreover, this section emphasizes the ongoing message of ACIM: You don’t have to prepare yourself for God by perfecting the self. All you need is willingness, which is of the mind, to be released from guilt and to experience God. So why would it then tell you that you have to live a certain way? This would contradict its central message of forgiveness, which is that nothing you do or do not do as a person has any effect on God at all. This is hard to accept because needing only to have a willing mind completely cuts out the body and ego from the process. This is what this section is explaining.
You bring the Holy Instant with you into the midst of a normal life in the world. You don’t have to stay in a Holy Instant. You only have to be willing to practice it a few times a day. And it becomes the means through which you grow your awareness of God. This releases you from the value that you have put on the self, and therefore from valuing separation from God and guilt.
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