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“… Think of your mind as a vast circle, surrounded by a layer of heavy, dark clouds. You can see only the clouds because you seem to be standing outside the circle and quite apart from it. … From where you stand, you can see no reason to believe there is a brilliant light hidden by the clouds. The clouds seem to be the only reality. They seem to be all there is to see. Therefore, you do not attempt to go through them and past them, which is the only way in which you would be really convinced of their lack of substance. …” (A Course in Miraclesworkbook lesson 69, paragraph 4 and 5)
At five years old when not trying to dig to China my friend Linda and I spent many afternoons flat on our backs in tangles of grass and clover studying shifting cloud patterns evidently choreographed from afar by a sorcerer equally possessed by the ridiculous and macabre. A giant’s intimidating profile soon morphed into an elaborate, undulating wedding gown that melted into Frankenstein. A hedge of fairy-tale roses grew into a tiered cake emerging as a wild steed transforming into a mushroom cloud signifying sinister Cold-War intent.
Continued observation of the unpredictable skies above our suburban landscape combined with surveillance of the unsteady conditions within our homes and the wobbly moods of our fellow inhabitants soon led us to develop an even more dualistic theory. Far beyond what appeared to the naked eye must lay a land of good clouds and a land of bad, each continually launching ambassadors into our atmosphere to strengthen their viewpoint and attract followers. Our fellow earthlings had clearly already chosen one side or the other, although whether or not they could choose again remained a source of much debate. The Commies and our brothers, for example, seemed far beyond redemption of any kind. But our parents and teachers had good days and bad, bolstering the case for free—however vacillating--will.
In any event, firmly, unalterably aligned with the leaders of the good-cloud tribe as we naturally were we began to worship them in our own weird way, leaving little gifts of perfume samples and hard candies in the sandbox and under our pillows in exchange for specific interventions on our behalf. Asking for proof of their presence, protection, and ability to conquer the bad that–despite our vivid imaginations and the elaborate stories we wove to explain their invisible ways—never really came.
I am thinking about clouds and their meaning today because as I slowly regained consciousness this morning, in that state of not quite asleep and not quite awake that sometimes produces flashes of welcome and unwelcome insight, I envisioned a special relationship I’ve used to block my awareness to love’s true presence plastered across the sky in my mind as a detailed, three-dimensional cloud blocking my field of vision, yet bordered by shimmering light, as if just having eclipsed the sun.
I recalled the metaphor the Course uses in workbook lessons 69 and 70 where Jesus compares our tortured projections of sin, guilt, and fear to clouds that can seem attractive, repulsive, or terrifying but remain completely unsubstantial and have no effect at all on the light they seem to obscure. A light that continues to shine in the one mind we never really left. A light that envelops all the seeming separated ones we love and hate including the selves we think we are; the one blazing light of our true, eternal, all-loving nature. Instead of choosing sides among illusory clouds, the Course invites us to transcend them by choosing the inner teacher of light always beckoning from our one mind.
“ … Determine to go past the clouds. Reach out and touch them in your mind. Brush them aside with your hand; feel them resting on your cheeks and forehead and eyelids as you go through them. Go on; clouds cannot stop you.” (Lesson 69, paragraph 3)
The meaning I’ve assigned to the clouds of guilt I prefer to see in an imaginary sky to prove I exist independently but it’s not my fault has not changed all that much since I was five. But I now know that trying to coax the light into this dream will only strengthen the thought of being cast into perpetual darkness that sprang from a mistaken belief I could separate from our infinitely indivisible source. Only choosing for the part of my mind that knows only light can lead me through the clouds of my projections to the perpetual light of our one true nature. But walking through the clouds takes courage, and cannot be attempted alone. Only by joining--from moment to moment as we examine each cloud we’ve imagined to keep love away--with the part of our mind certain there is nothing to fear can we find our way back to the light.
“Since all illusions of salvation have failed you, surely you do not want to remain in the clouds, looking vainly for idols there, when you could so easily walk on into the light of real salvation. Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy.” (Lesson 70, paragraph 9.)
Jesus doesn’t literally give us a hand, of course, there being no bodies in truth. But if it helps us here in the condition we think we’re in to imagine holding the hand of the part of our mind sure we are safe, whole, loved and loving regardless of shifting cloud patterns, I say, go for it! Because every time I take that hand another cloud vanishes, revealing more light.
As I settled down to work later that morning--gazing out the window at an unusually socked-in cloud cover that had settled over Denver--I had to smile. Even if today is cloudy with a chance of more projection clouds are but images I make up from moment to moment in my fear, without meaning, but with purpose. A purpose I can use to strengthen the darkness of my secret sin, guilt, and fear or offer to the light of forgiveness in our one mind in which all clouds of fear vanish into the healing certainty of our one forever beating heart.