Let's do a little experiment.
Place your left hand on your lap. Let it lie still there for a moment.
Then, whenever you are ready, raise your hand off your lap.
Did it feel like you decided when to raise your hand? In other words, is it your belief that you were in charge of when to lift your hand from your lap?
Guess what? You’re wrong.
You were not in control of when - or even if - to lift your hand.
The part of the brain that controls hand movements is activated BEFORE you're even aware of making a decision to move your hand.
Your brain had already been instructed to lift your hand well before you “decided” to do it. In other words, not only are you NOT in control, but you are the last to know about everything that occurs with your body.
These are not some metaphysical, neo-spiritual pronouncements. Everything noted above has been demonstrated again and again through fMRI testing. Which really throws a wrench into our ideas of consciousness, free-will, and the self-concept we call “I”.
But if we are not in control, then who is? Who or what triggered the brain to fire the neurons responsible for lifting the hand?
Everything that we experience - without exception - is the result of the mind. The mind is the activating agent of action and awareness.
And yet, paradoxically, we can’t see or touch the mind. It is not in the body, nor is it even in the realm of material existence. The mind is outside of time and space.
Accessing the mind is further complicated by our certainty of self.
This concept of “me” is so viscerally tactile, so seemingly solid, that it’s nearly impossible to accept we are wrong. Every emotion, whether positive or negative, reinforces the conviction of consciousness. Extending Descartes, I think, I feel, I bleed, I live, I die … therefore, I am.
This is by design. At least, by design of the ego.
By keeping us rooted in the world of bodies and other countless forms in a seeming universe of quasi-infinite space, the ego ensures its existence. Caught up in the drama of life, the endless seeking of pleasure, the futile avoidance of pain, and the ominous cloud of eventual death - repeated lifetime after lifetime - there seems to be no other way.
That would be incredibly depressing indeed, were it to be true. Thankfully, it’s not.
There is another way.
And that’s by seeing through the ego’s purpose and returning awareness to the mind. From which our entire experience of everything is transformed.
As we read in A Course in Miracles:
Seek not outside yourself. For all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found. (T-29.VII.1)
The “yourself” referred to in this passage is not our body nor our sense of conscious self. Rather, it is the decision-making part of our mind that in every moment is choosing either the dominion of ego or the presence of love.
When we choose the ego, we “seek outside ourselves” and turn to the world and bodies and a self-concept of “me” that is continually buffeted by outside forces.
But when instead we choose the right mind of spirit we experience a state of complete liberation from pain. Consider this powerful paragraph from Lesson 132 in the Course:
Yet is salvation easily achieved, for anyone is free to change his mind, and all his thoughts [and experiences] change with it. Now the source of thought has shifted, for to change your mind means you have changed the source of all ideas you think or ever thought or yet will think. You free the past from what you thought before. You free the future from all ancient thoughts of seeking what you do not want to find.
Free will in the course has nothing to do with a decision (or not) to lift a hand or lead a life. Rather, it’s the freedom we have in returning awareness to the mind and choosing ego or spirit. One leads to a perpetual experience of pain while the other eternal peace. Once we understand the dynamics, the choice is not hard to make. At which point, we shift from being the last to know to a reunion with the infinite all-knowing.
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore the concept of free will and practice returning to the mind where we can experience true freedom. I look forward to seeing you then.