The Quiet Answer — Part 4, conclusion
I noticed that I took off my nightgown and got dressed. I must be feeling better. The answer must have come.
I do feel good! But why?
It took me a while to figure out what had changed. It’s the tricky little matter of identity, I realized. I can do anything I like! I’m free. I don’t need a college degree to feel good about myself. I don’t need an Instagram following. I don’t need to be a nun to be holy. I don’t need to do anything in particular. I am already fully myself — that was the realization. I don’t need to do or achieve certain things to be my best self — that belief was the problem.
“I am as God created me.”
Remember that I began this experiment in Part 1 with a reminder about bracketing assumptions. Is there a God? I don’t know. But for the sake of my experiment I’m assuming so. The idea that creation is complete, that we are already whole and perfect and cannot be changed, is emphasized throughout A Course in Miracles. (See Lesson 94, for instance.) It’s hard to believe, but then, acim is a radical thought system, and not everyone’s cup of tea. Even with my decision to bracket assumptions, the idea that I’m already complete is all too easy to forget when I am bombarded, both out in the world and by my own thoughts, with the need for self-improvement.
Anyway, I like to do art. I like collage. I like showing my art on Instagram. So there must be a way to do those things without conflict. That’s all the nun really wants, no conflict. She’ll be happy if there’s peace. Can I do art in peace? Can I participate on Instagram in peace? Can I let go of all the self-doubt?
I began to get more followers. I made one collage that a surprising number of people saw and liked. My motivations got more complicated because success felt good and I wanted it to keep happening.
How can I do art if I’m thinking about whether or not other people will like what I make? That thought is a highly corrupting influence. How can I be true to myself if I’m thinking about what other people want from me? I remembered what the nun whispered, that if I could stop worrying what other people think, she might consider coming out of the convent and walking around the world beside me…
“She” is the part of me that wants peace above all else. “She” retreats into the back of my mind (aka “the convent”) when I get embroiled in conflict with myself or others. But she is good company, and I want her with me! As it turns out, I like peace too. As soon as art becomes competitive, it hurts. As soon as art becomes a way to improve my self-image, it’s not fresh and fun. After a while I found that collage wasn’t even enjoyable any more, it had become stressful. I felt confused and under pressure. Should I just quit?
Now what? I asked Bob.
Bob: Anything you do can be used for God’s purpose or your ego’s purpose.
me: What is God’s purpose? To help people?
Bob: God’s purpose is to make happy.
me: You mean to make ME happy? How do I tap into that?
Bob: You believe that God’s will is different from yours. You think “he” might ask you to do something you don’t want to do. You believe that to make others happy you have to give up what you really want. None of that is true.
me: I was thinking I needed to practice drawing so my art would get better and then I’d be happier with it and more people would like it. But I don’t really want to practice drawing…
Bob: Instead practice the other state of mind, use the holy instant (see Part 1 for definition).
me: oh! yeah! Like Japanese Zen painters who meditate for hours and then create a brilliant painting in minutes.
Bob: Just remember to connect to that peaceful state of mind before you do art. See what happens. It doesn’t have to involve hours of meditation. And by the way, it doesn’t matter whether you’re making art or going grocery shopping. All activities are the same.
me: I’ll take your word for that.
Bob: You want happiness, and you believe that some activities can give it to you and some can’t.
Bob: But happiness comes only from a state of mind, not from conditions or activities.
me: Well I’m finding out that art is fickle. It doesn’t always bring me the happiness I expect.
Bob: That other state of mind is always available, no matter what you’re doing. With practice it becomes easier and easier to stay there, to become constant in your peace of mind.
“If God gave an answer there must be a way in which your problems are resolved, for what He wills already has been done.
Thus it must be that time is not involved and every problem can be answered now. Yet it must also be that, in your state of mind, solution is impossible. Therefore, God must have given you a way of reaching to another state of mind in which the answer is already there.
~ A Course in Miracles — Chapter 27, Section IV, The Quiet Answer