The Serenity Prayer (Part 1)
This dialogue is a transcription of the audio CD The Serenity Prayer / No Control Over the World. This dialogue took place between David and two participants in a small gathering.
David: Tonight I would like to get to the very core of the matter and get so clear that this isn’t going to be a long journey. I want to go right for the core so that there is clarity. The first thing I want to do is ask if either of you can remember the Serenity Prayer, because we have a 1,200 page book in front of us, but the wisdom at the core is contained in the Serenity Prayer. And that’s what we will spring off of tonight.
Participant 1: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
David: We’ll keep coming back to this because this is in a nugget what the whole Course is about. What the Course is about is getting the wisdom to tell the difference between the first two statements – the things that I can change and the things that I can’t… to accept the things that I can’t change and to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. There’s where the discernment and discrimination comes in. That’s what we really want to go into tonight to see those first two for what they are. If you can see the first two for what they are then that’s the end of all striving. It is not a linear journey anymore if I can get real clear.
There is a one sentence today that came through so loud and clear, “You still cannot will against him and that is why you have no control over the world you made.” So I’d like you to just take a look at that for a minute and see what comes up around that and what your feelings are and what that means to you… that you have no control over the world you made.
Participant 2: My first reaction is “Oh, NO! This is bad news if I have no control over the world I made”. Then as I look at that statement there is more of an idea of relief that if I do not have control over the world I made then I don’t have to keep trying to control it, that there is no point in trying to control what is not controllable. And so I can just take my hands off of it, because it’s pointless anyway to keep my hands in there when it is of no avail. It’s a waste of time, a game. Why would I want to put my hands there….my mind there?
David: … your attention there. Can you see how all encompassing that statement is? That you have no control over the world you made. Earlier we were just going into a discussion about someone who you felt was talking too much, which would be one teeny little circumstance that would fit under this umbrella of `you have no control’. Can you see where that would fit in as well as all conceivable problems relating to specifics, or wishing things could be different than they are.
Participant 2: That’s the thought that was coming to me as you were saying that… that all of those are examples of wishing things were different than there are. And if they were [different] then it would be so much better.
David: We spent a whole session over at Mary’s one time talking about the restlessness you were feeling. And I remember we traced it very carefully to believing that you had a choice in the world in form. Can you see how this blankets that? You have no control over the world you made, and the whole concept of having to choose in between things, circumstances, events and objects… all of the strain and struggle and even the restlessness perhaps of wondering what to do next or feeling like you should be doing something different…can you see how all of that gets blanketed under `you have no control over the world you made.’?
Participant 1: Yes, that seems clearer. But I think where I seem to be headed recently is that the control lies with my mind, that by keeping my mind focused on my intention, that that will control over the world. You know what I am saying? There is still that thought.
David: How will it control the world? Even if you could focus your mind like that, how are you sensing…
Participant 1: That the world might change or that people might change. That there would be a reflection in the world of the change in my mind. So that would be the control that I would have. The control would come through my mind and be reflected out into the world.
David: If I think that the world will change in some way… people have said, `as I get clearer, that’s where the evolution of the world will improve and become a more peaceful place’. That would be a subtle example of believing that I still have control over the world in some way. But it is starting to get to that point in the Serenity Prayer where you can see the things that you can change.
Participant 1: That would be my mind, that’s it.
David: The last sentence in the paragraph [quoted earlier] “For you do have control over your mind.” states it pretty clearly. So while you have no control over the world you made, you do have control over your mind. That’s where the control is. That sentence says nothing about the world, nothing.
Participant 1: But the world is in my mind, so how is it different?
David: When we speak of `you have no control over the world you made’ we are speaking of the projected world or `the script’. You could even say the wrong mind [thoughts and the world that was projected from them]… that there is no control over that, but there is control over the purpose that I give the world. We are making a clear distinction between form and content. When we say that you do have control over your mind, we are back to getting down to the basement and the two purposes in the mind [ego’s purposes and the Holy Spirit’s purposes] and that is where I have the control because that’s the decision. In fact it’s the only decision that I have. It’s still a metaphor because in Heaven there is no decision at all, but I can’t be in that state of being until I first see the choice where it is and see where I have the control. Getting back to the Serenity Prayer, changing the things that I can is my mind, because I have a decision between these two purposes. When it says to `accept the things I cannot change’ we are speaking about `the script’ or the projected world. Another part of the Course says, “Seek not to change the world, seek only to change your mind about the world.” That fits right in with this. Seek not to change the world. Why? Because you have no control over the world that you made. It’s pointless and fruitless to try to change something. There is no change possible.
Participant 2: So to get back to what  talked about earlier, about the world being a reflection of the mind… that doesn’t in anyway imply that there is control over the script. But only that the way I look upon it will reflect the purpose that I bring to it. If I bring the ego purpose to what I see, then that is what will be reflected back to me from the script. And from that same script, the Holy Spirit’s purpose will be reflected back to me if that’s what is in my mind.
David: Yes. So in that sense the world is symbolic or representative of the purpose that I am holding onto. The only thing that I have control over is the choice of the purpose that I give to the world. The Holy Spirit’s purpose, if I can see that it is the only alternative and embrace that, this is the Real World. That is the world given a completely different meaning than the ego’s purpose for the world which is to just reinforce the separation and the guilt. Even the real world is not a real purpose in a sense that once that purpose is reached, then that is seen as purposeless. Because if it had a real purpose then it would have a reality, and the real world is an illusion as well. But we’re not trying to jump the gun too much. We are just trying to really follow it in with the Serenity Prayer and see that this is the only thing that I can control.
Participant 2: For me it’s important to remember that the reflection that comes back to me… that it doesn’t have any objective existence. That it all depends on how I am looking at it. It is like there is anything about that apart from how I am looking at it. What I am thinking about is what someone said to me recently which is “If I start looking at things differently, won’t things in form change?”. But it is not about anything changing in form. It is only about my perception, or the interpretation I am assigning to that form.
Participant 1: So that’s where the change in form takes place.
Participant 2: Yes. It is not a change in form, but we talk about it that way. It is really a change in how I am seeing the script. Because the script is written. A change in my mind doesn’t change anything about the script. It only changes my perception of the script.
David: Now you’re bringing in another element. We just started with a simple thing, `you have no control over the world you made.’ Then you just brought in the element of `the script is written’. And that would seem to go with `you have no control over the world you made’. If it’s written, if it’s past tense, it’s over and done. How do you change a painting that’s finished if it’s over and done? How do you change something if it is already finished? That is bringing in the time sense. That is one of the metaphysical reasons why you have no control over the world, because it is all past. Lesson #7 “I see only the past.” My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts. Those past thoughts are showing me a past world and therefore if I think I can change the screen so to speak or change the script then what do I believe? I believe I can change the past!
Participant 2: Or I believe it’s not really past, that it is the present instead of the past.
David: Yes. And when it is illuminated to us that we are seeing through the body’s eyes, that the deceived mind sees on the past, then to attempt to change things in the world would be attempting to change the past.
That is the whole basis for special relationships. The mind believes it has been deprived. It keeps seeking outside of itself because it keeps trying to tinker with the screen. Another body, another relationship, another car, another house, another climate, more money, more idols in whatever form they are. But underneath it is the thought that `I have been deprived in the past and I believe that I can tinker with the screen or change the contents of the consciousness and rearrange them in some way that I can find a way to get what I was deprived of.’ But it won’t work. It can’t happen, trying to make up for something in the very place where the deprivation seemed to happen. The only place of completion is in my mind. The Holy Spirit is the answer to what I seem to be feeling is a lack. All of the sudden all of the sections on special relationships start to click in this basic underlying metaphysic.
Participant 2: So it’s a failure to recognize that there is no deprivation in the world. The only void or vacancy or lack of fulfillment is in the mind that believes that there is a lack.
David: And whether you call it `scarcity principle’ or whether you call it lack or deprivation, that is the ego’s purpose. There are only two purposes in the mind and that is all within the ego’s purpose. And therefore the only way to relieve or to see a solution to the problem is by changing the purpose in the mind. It has nothing to do with the world.
Another quote that I wanted to look at that dovetails with this is, “Only a constant purpose can endow events with stable meaning.” Of course, it is the ego’s purpose that makes everything seem dis-united and like separate events. That constant purpose is the thread that ties all the events together. Really the script is a continuous thing instead of discreet events. `I did this next and this happened, then I went there`… that’s the way it’s talked about when the mind believes in sequential time and events. But once we get a sense that there’s this purpose that ties them all together then that is where the fusion takes place, the fusion between all the events.
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