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From the Heart: The Picture and the Frame

by Alan Cohen


Sometime I look around my house and all I see are projects. The light fixture in the living room needs to be rewired, leaves are clogging the rain gutters, and the Hibiscus hedge is due for a trimming. That’s just the beginning. For every project I get into, I notice three more to be done. This is a never-ending process. The day will never come when I will step back, look at my home, and say, “There—it’s done.”

When I saw the film Shining Night, (innerharmony.com) I received a reprieve from the onus of keeping the house perfect. This inspiring documentary about Morten Lauridsen, one of the world’s most gifted composers of chorale music, shows Mr. Lauridsen creating in his summer studio in the Pacific Northwest. I was struck by the humble, less-than-well-kept-up cottage in which this master creates his heavenly compositions. The house’s exterior paint is peeling, he composes on a slightly-out-of-tune piano, and creature comforts are minimal. The cottage is a launch pad for music that heals. Morten Lauridsen cares more about his music than the building in which he composes it.

A Course in Miracles offers a striking metaphor for the contrast between spirit and form. In a section called The Two Pictures (Text, Chapter 17) we are offered two pictures and two frames. One is “surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure. Into the frame are woven all sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions . . . The glitter of blood shines like rubies, and the tears are faceted like diamonds and gleam in the dim light. . . Look at the picture. Do not let the frame distract you. . . The frame is not the gift.”

Then the course suggests another picture, the beauty of which far outshines the frame: “. . . if you accept this gift you will not see the frame at all, because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture.”

The only purpose of a house, car, technological device, or body is to serve as a vehicle for the expression of love. As long as the form is a venue for the spirit, it is useful. When the form ceases to serve the spirit, or the spirit ends up serving the form, the system becomes dysfunctional, it will engender pain, and dissolve. When any relationship, organization, institution, corporation, government, or religion ceases to help its constituents and begins to exist only to prolong itself, it has outlived its usefulness. The entire universe is set up to support life; when the spirit becomes absent, the form has no purpose and it must disappear.

The good news is that for every form that dies because the spirit is no longer present, a new form will live because the spirit has taken up residence there. Spirit cannot be killed. When you move with the river of life, you will always be alive and everything you do will flourish.

Consider your home, career, relationship, and any organization in which you participate, and ask yourself, “Is this bringing me greater life, or is it draining life from me?” “Am I looking at a picture that heals and empowers me, or have I become entrapped in a gaudy frame?” While such introspection can be challenging, it is the door to healing and freedom.

For many years I have attended and taught manifestation workshops—how to get stuff. As I observe my own life and the lives of people who have manifested lots of stuff, I notice that we eventually became more interested in the de-manifestation workshop—getting rid of the stuff we have accumulated that we don’t need. At a farmer’s market I was tempted to purchase a beautiful blown glass dolphin with a soft gold veneer. Then I thought, “Do I really want one more thing to keep somewhere, clean, protect, and then store in the garage?” I asked Dee if she wanted me to get it for her. “I don’t think we need any more stuff,” she replied. We shared a contented smile and walked on.

Morten Lauridsen’s humble cottage is lowly to the eye, but a cathedral to the soul. The music he generates there, free from the distraction of upkeep, will change the world and bless it far longer than his cottage will. One day his cottage will fall to dust. His music will stream through the ages.

As a result of Mr. Lauridsen’s example, I have a new attitude to my house and my possessions. My home has become my friend, not my intimidator. When I look at the leaves in the gutter, I know I will get to them. But for now I will get to my writing, my beloved, and my family. The Hibiscus flowers are gifts, not obligations.

I am not against stuff. I am for enough stuff. The good stuff. The appropriate stuff. The stuff that is truly helpful. If you love something, it is enhancing your life, and you are using it for upliftment, it is holy stuff. If it is cumbersome or bringing you down in any way, you cannot afford it. May all of your frames only enhance all of your magnificent pictures.

Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. Join Alan beginning September 1 for his acclaimed Life Coach Training to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your current career. For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com , email info@alancohen.com or phone (800) 568-3079 or (808) 572-0001.


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