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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ease of Acceptance

I have had the best realization:  I have been making the whole issue of forgiveness waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy too hard. 

I've been hanging out with Jesus/Holy Spirit/Source in my mind a lot lately.  But this time in the form of Ramana Maharshi, inspired by a couple dreams and a book. 

My time spent in this non-doing has turned out to be like a radical inversion of the world's Occupy movement.  As I Occupy my mind with my Friend, instead of protesting all the corruption and chaos I see in my mind and world, we -- my bud Ramana and I -- just smile at it and Accept it all.

Yes, that's what I said. I am Accepting everything.  That is to say, I am not resisting, fixing, analyzing, or even forgiving. (although I actually am...but I'm not trying to forgive.) 

Now this might seem too simple, but I'll tell you what -- it's addicting.  When I wake up feeling angst-y about the thing I should have done, or the thing I shouldn't have said, or the thoughts about past or future that I shouldn't be entertaining....we Accept.  All the images, feelings, actions, and inactions -- we just Accept them without changing anything. That's it!

And when I indulge in some behavior or thinking that I know is not good for me during the day? That's when I join my smiling Bud where he is always sitting, Shining up the place in my mind with a soft, luminous lovely Light, and we grin together.  Then we Accept that, yep, this is what I seem to be doing.  Oh well, we say, and oh isn't it nice to Rest in this Quiet Place while she goes on about the script?  I can stay here where it's Quiet even while I/she is experiencing something that she may have called "discomfort" before.

When a thought about a loved one that I may harbor worries around occurs to me?  I Accept that they may or may not do or not do the things that may or may not be bad or good.  And I Accept that I have not been moved through inspiration to say or do or fix the person or situation in the script...or if I am inspired to take action, I do it and forget about it.  Because who cares what the outcome is anyway?  Either way, I will rush to Accept.

This having no preferences around outcomes makes things so much simpler and easy!

There's more to this Acceptance though - It's an unspeakable Quietness.  A Gentleness.  A Lovingness.  It's like my Mind is becoming this soft cuddly Hug towards all the things that are sharp and that used to stab it and cause it pain.

Mostly my Acceptance is being applied to the Laura character that I spend time imagining I am.  All her flaws, weaknesses, errors --- all the sins of her past and fears for her future -- I just Accept.  There's nothing to "do" about her.  She's a hopeless case, really! In fact, there's never been a way to make her more spiritual or good.  It's like she's a paper doll and I can enjoy her even though she gets dog-eared and frayed.  I can Accept what she looks like, what she wants to do, what she doesn't want to do, what her "karma" or script turns into, what loves her, what leaves her, what hurts her, what pleases her.  These experiences that change are nothing -- just like little surface ripples on a vast, deep Ocean.

If I forget momentarily, I'm finding it helps to ask "Who wants something to be some other way?"  And this seems to re-focus me pretty quickly because it helps me remember that the one that has all the opinions is the individual self, which I have found to be nothing solid at all.  She blows with the wind, day imagining this and the next imagining that.  Everything written about the capriciousness of the ego is true by my own honest inquiry into myself.  So I have given up on her. But not on the Presence that moves through her.

So if you have found Forgiveness hard... maybe you can stop trying to Forgive?  Maybe just Accept.  Embrace.  It's a very Quiet thing to do.  So Quiet the mind falls naturally into Rest, like an old body that has run a marathon and now plunges into a thick cozy featherbed.

Try it, you'll like it. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Broken Windows, Part II

This post series is about Broken Windows.  The metaphor comes from an inspired message that came to me a few years ago, as I entered a new phase in relinquishment. It led to endings and tear-downs and the seeming sacrifice of several identities formerly revered by me (and any who share my conditioning) no less than the sacred cows in India.

My Teachers shared a challenging truth with me as the demolition was picking up steam -- "Sometimes you have to break a window to let the Light come in.  But it's okay. You can just pick up the pieces."

This news startled me, and I was not in the mood, just then, to be startled. I see now that I secretly harbored a childish attitude towards my practice that went something like -- "If I am a very good girl and do my Forgiveness lessons every day, I can avoid bad stuff...or at least get through it faster and with fewer scrapes and bruises."  That was the fuel under my dedication to study A Course in Miracles for many years. It was a really a type of negotiation:  I do this for you God, then you promise not to dump too hard on me.

So breaking windows did not seem good. I imagined I must have gotten the message twisted up somehow.  I didn't really believe the Holy Spirit would prompt choices that would result in broken windows, not the kind Good people value. Only the ego does that, right?

Good people wash the windows and keep the curtains on them clean and bright and cheery -- when things get stale, we open the windows a while for fresh air.  Sometimes we allow ourselves to gaze out of our windows longingly in the middle of the night, when our feelings of being alone and living a life bereft of fulfilling meaning find their way to the surface of our minds temporarily.

But we do not break them. Right?

I came to see this is not always true. At least it wasn't for me.

This whole business is very personal and very subtle; the place where each of us is in relationship to our individual identity, and to our projected reality, and to our steps and Teacher on the Path Home, is hard to put in words.  I am using a paint gun from the hardware store to put the smile on Mona Lisa, I realize...but it's what I have right now.  So hold lightly to the words, forgive the clumsy approach, and meet me between the lines.

Here's a stab at the point I'm trying to make...

Many of us are going through intense shifts right now.  We're feeling the stress of "undoing" on so many fronts -- from our careers, our financial portfolios, our relationships, our bodies, our carefully imagined futures, our psyches.  Pulling back on the camera, a wider view captures a game of dominoes seemingly ready to topple: the global banking system is in a frantic game of "kick the can";  governments seem dysfunctional at best and corrupt at worst; new threats of war and various acts of saber rattling make regular headlines news; social unrest is like a virus across nations all over the world; etc etc etc.

Pulling back even FURTHER, we see the whole planet is shifting:  magnetic north is racing towards Siberia at an astounding speed; earthquake and volcanic activity is on the increase; weather "bombs" are striking around the world with unusual force; and the sun continues to belch extremely powerful energy at the earth.

I could go on, but you get my point.  You probably feel my point in some aspect of your life or the lives of those around you.

I think it's the nature of the collective script we are in right now . As Arten and Pursah tell Gary Renard in Your Immortal Reality, 2012 and onward is a time in which the heat is turned up on the ego's game of carrots and sticks. (Like in Spinal Tap, the dial goes "to eleven!") Everything bad -- and even good -- looks bigger and stronger, and change happens faster and faster.

I am not going to offer the standby "it's all an illusion" answer at this point (even though, of course, it is). That's not what I feel in my heart is needed to say. I do feel that things are shifting, and I do believe things "out there" may come to look like they are breaking down even more so. It will probably be different for different people.  Scary images and corresponding fear/hate may increase over the next several years. (And because we are working with duality, there could be lots of good stuff, too -- clean or free energy, more abundance, stronger families, a united effort to save the world's ecology, etc. etc. but we won't go there in this post.)

"Sometimes you have to break a window to let the Light come in.  But it's okay. You can just pick up the pieces."

I'm not saying this is everyone's path.  But sometimes I have to go through a break down in order to get to a break through.  Sometimes I find that when I truly Surrender -- when I say and really mean "I do not know my best interests" -- the very things I think I am supposed to hold onto and fix, and make healthy and whole, shatter into millions of sharp pieces that fall around my feet.

If it happens that way for me sometimes, it might for you, too.

This is a good time to remind us that the ego never misses a chance to kick us when we're down. After a good shattering episode is often when the viciousness of the ego is at its height of nasty. It jumps right in when we're on our shaky knees trying to pick up the glass so no one gets hurt and tells us in many unflattering ways how we have, in no uncertain terms, failed. Big time. And we're most likely doomed to live a miserable existence forever after, too. If we're lucky.

But there is no failure. Our desire for Peace, even if its not always 100% pure, ensures that we haven't failed.

Here's my theory on broken windows:  I think there are times when our Path needs to be invited out of career or hobby status and elevated to Purpose. It may just be me, but it seems that broken windows -- the individual kind and the collective kind -- are Called in by us when We are Ready to Wake Up.  We don't even know it consciously, perhaps. Not really. 

Sometimes we're guided to break a window ourselves -- we just wake up one day, take a baseball bat, and give the window a good whack.  And sometimes it seems to come down around our ears by an "Act of God."   Suddenly the breeze hits us in the face and we catch our breath...maybe we crawl out of the hole that is left and leave the little empty room we've called home for so long.

That's when we move out of studying Forgiveness and into Purpose.

After the breakage, if it's our Calling, we move into Purpose as a reflex...not perfectly, but more sincerely than we ever thought possible.  We can't NOT do it because the old rules that worked okay-ish back in our little room don't work anymore.  We have that "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" feeling, but we're also amazed at the technicolor experiences we're having.  When we forget our Purpose (and we do), we cycle through a needed lesson at light speed and remember quickly. Our Learning pace accelerates, and even when things are challenging, we feel there is Meaning.

And this is Good.  Because the nature of our studies before left us forever peering through a window at the Light.  We were drawn to it like the moth to a flame, as evidenced by the classes we went to, the books we bought, the practices we kept. But all our practice left us still with our noses pressed up against the glass. We'd stay there for a while building a memory of the Sun, and then we'd go back to our circular rat race in our little room.

After we obtained some level of proficiency in our spiritual practicing, we found ourselves thinking, "This must be it. I must be connected to my Source. A few more affirmations and I'm sure I will levitate right off my meditation cushion."  We wiped down the window with Windex through prayer and meditation and other practice, even while we were like the fish who swims in, but doesn't really understand, the water.

There was still "me" and Holy Spirit.  There was my practice and "my life in the world." There was two-ness.  There was a great divide within me, always doing a tug-of-war for my alliance.

This type of practice was an essential part of my Path and maybe yours.  But it's also, I'm coming to see, a very deep choice I was/sometimes still am making. I'm kept separated from my Self by transparent glass that lets me a) feel I'm getting in touch with Something Good, but b) also lets me keep my me-ness.

Backing up a bit, what the hell's a window? :)

Windows are our lives and identities and sense of safety and rightness as they appear in forms and beliefs.  So there are many little windows that all nest under the Big Window, which is the ego thought system of specialness. When a window breaks, the fear in us cries out about loss and pain and wrong-doing.  In our 'normal' life, we sometimes build lots of windows that give us a sense of openness and freedom. The catch is -- the thing that I'm trying to delicately point out -- that they offer the illusion of really setting us free.

"Sometimes you have to break a window to let the Light come in.  But it's okay. You can just pick up the pieces."

"Being in the world but not of the world" is something we melt into. The forms are never a problem, except for the fact that we think they are important. So while we can debate until the cows come home about how nothing in the world matters because nothing is real, that really misses the point.  The point is we still harbor all kinds of meaning about those forms, no matter if we know we shouldn't because we "studied non-duality in a book for 20 years."

Broken windows are part of the process for many of us, though I can't say they are required for everyone. But the invisible "glass" or unconscious decision that separates me and "my life" from my Source -- and "gives everything the meaning that it has for me" -- must be relinquished at some point.  When we're ready, sometimes this shows up as the forms in our life that we cherish shattering into a million little pieces at our feet.

And, darn it, isn't that just what we were afraid was going to happen if we really stopped being our own authority and "stepped back and let Him Lead the Way?"  Yup! But notice it's not usually a beginning step.  We have been through quite a few classes and passed quite a few lessons to get to the broken windows.  And that's when the Holy Spirit Guides us to walk gently through the rubble so we can experience for ourselves that there is no-thing there but the fear or Love that we projected or extended.

There's nothing that can hurt.  There are scary shadows, but these illusions fade in our Light.   We learn, slowly at first, that we can walk across the shards and they will leave no scratch. We are the Master.

I have come to see that there is no way to become the Master through study.  The Master in us Walks Again only when we take His Steps. We have to Walk Like Him as we walk with Him. We see we truly can Accept everything right now, right where we are, without judgement.  We learn to gratefully face, own, and Turn Over the projections to our Teacher, who is waiting for the day we Know who We Are like He Knows.

We need to remind ourselves over and over that we can not Teach ourselves.  We have to Trust that He knows how to set up the class, so that we reverse course on the ego's lessons and do the thing that feels most unnatural at first.  We have to unlearn everything we've ever been taught by the world (a tall order) so we can see through the ego. His goal is that we get maximum learning from each opportunity, and He's actually pretty darn good at what He does.

Which is why sometimes -- and only when there is enough stored up Trust in the account and we are truly ready -- He knows that the gentlest way forward for us is to let the windows break into a million pieces. Sometimes in our minds only, sometimes in our worlds first.  Only then can we often see and know deep in our hearts what we have really been dealing with and how much no-thing it is. He knows this about us. He's good I tell you!

So let's walk gently and happily together as the wind-up world plays itself out.  We need our Friends -- our Mighty Companions -- to play with through this phase of learning.  Let's use every dismantling to take us deeper into our Purpose.  Let's not mourn the loss of illusion. Let's pick up every little shard that we feared might cut us, own it, and Turn It Over to our Teacher to see what Gift it holds for us.  Let's let Love Teach us that when Love leads, everyone must win, no matter what the appearances look like to the world "out there".

There is only One of us here "separated" by many little pieces of no-thing.  Let's let go of the no-thing and bask, hand in hand, in the Sun Rise that is Shining away the long night of darkness Within.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Post-Game Review with the Holy Spirit

When I get to the end of an ego hangover...when the storm has passed, the waves have calmed, the sun shines once again...that's when I am pretty sure I'm nuts. How is it that I can enter into such states -- such despair, such heart-wrenching remorse and guilt, such fear?

There is probably a pharmaceutical for this, but I will stick to my vitamins. That's as far as I'm willing to go down the pill road.  There are no pills for what ails me.  What ails me is a false identity. 

As ACIM says, "Kindness created me Kind."  To be in all my relationships with no needs other than "accepting the Atonement for myself" -- or remembering Who I Am by seeing only Love in You/Me -- that is my goal.  That's the only game in town.

Every day is a chance to recommit to this goal.  In truth, there's no yesterday to be stacked against us.  We're just reliving the one instant of separation over and over and over and over.  It's the same instant!  But at any time, when our readiness is in place, we can Choose Again.

"Going nuts" out on the field temporarily gives us a window into the darkness that we're still harboring. There are still beliefs in there that -- despite all our understanding thus far -- we haven't released.

So that's the value of handing over your "going nuts" insanity play to the Holy Spirit.  It's like a post-game review:

Holy Spirit (thumb pressing 'pause' on the remote control):  "You see there?  You see where you tried to do an end-game run by trying to fake out your opponent with a calm demeanor (see your face) while you were holding onto a hateful judgment?  That's your favorite move, but we've gone over doesn't get you to the goal."

Me: (munching the popcorn) "Hmm..yes, I see that.  I'm actually dragging us backward on the field, aren't I..."

H.S.:  "Yes!  Now you are seeing what I'm seeing!  Good!  Now next time, just remember  -- I am with you -- look for Me on the sidelines.  When I see you going off course, I am going to give you a signal, and then you click your heels together and say 'there's no place like Home'."

Me:  "Um, you are kidding right?"

H.S.:  ::chuckle:: "yeah, I was kidding about that last part, although for some people that works.  But the signal for us will be when you don't feel Peace.  Then step back from the scene, and let's huddle.  I'll help you join your mind with Mine again -- if you will let Me -- and then you'll be back in business right away..."

Me:  "Right away? Wait, but won't that take a lot of time? I mean, what if I'm in the middle of something important?"

H.S.: "You mean, like an 'important' disagreement?"

Me: "Well, maybe -- like what if there's a decision to be made right away?!"

H.S:  "Trust me, there's never a decision to be made right away. You need do nothing. That's an old ego ploy.  You join with me kid -- we'll huddle for a bit -- and everything will be fine. It will take just an instant, a Holy Instant."

Me: "Okay, but then I get all mushy and soft inside and I don't want to play anymore.  I just want to bliss-out in my Mind with you."

H.S:  "Right!  Well, The Game we are playing has different rules than the ones you keep trying to use.  As I keep trying to teach you, it is all about 'blissing-out in your Mind with Me' but you get to do it with your Brothers in your projected World.  So you'll get the hang of our huddle when the heat is will, honest!  I have Faith in You, and I am never wrong.  And then you'll see how much fun it will be to make those pretty circles on the field around Me -- all you Brothers, holding hands and singing and blissing-out in the Love. 

"....It will be much more fun than taking up sides, running until you want to hack your lungs up, and then tackling each other until you're broken and bruised."

Me:  "I'm assuming you said that because I'm still nursing an emotional black eye?"

H.S.:  ::wink::

H.S.:  "More popcorn?"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking for meaning in all the wrong places

Broken windows Part 2 will have to wait a while.  This blogger has been lost in the ego's world, no matter how much she intellectually, and from experience, knows better than to fall for the bait. 

But I did feel my way into a startlingly deeper understanding about one thing -- my lack of Peace is directly related to my actively resisting it. Pushing it away, even. In the frantic mind I seem to possess lately, I have had many "good reasons" floating around as justification for my state of dis-ease.  When tolerance for the pain is low, I call out for that lifeline.  "Holy Spirit, HELP!"  But He just keeps showing me, I have given all the meaning that the situation(s) have.  I'm choosing to believe my perceptions and my feelings -- that they are true and justified --  more than I believe God's Truth. 

Okay, so we got that settled. Again.

It might seem easy to "let go and let God" once we see the choice so clearly. And sometimes it is for me. But there are deep-seated unconscious beliefs  -- the kind that Hell is made from -- that can be like a minefield you have to walk through in order to let go sometimes. It can be incredibly hard.  Dark feelings of unworthiness, fear of being alienated/alone, shame for inherent badness, etc. The reflections everywhere have been showing me my thoughts.  Much as I'd love to blame the world (and have at times), I know if I am honest that there isn't anything but me here.  I have to look within. 

The only way out of the crazy mirrors is admitting that the images they show me are coming from me, not at me.  I've tried all the other ways of getting around this particular point and cleaning up the mess some other way, and they don't work. Not permanently. And so I have empirical data on this issue, and much as I would like to "cook the books" and make the results come out differently (so I can be a victim of the world I see), I know it's no use.  That old story/approach is not even satisfying to try anymore.

So I've been facing the hate/fear in:

Me:    "Okay, fear/hate. I see I'm choosing you.  I'm not consciously happy that I'm choosing you, but I can see that I want to choose you deep down.  I want to choose you, because the Peace that stands as the alternative to you scares the hell out of me.  I know that this is the fact because it's the only thing that explains why I AM choosing you.  So at least there's no more big mystery about why I'm not in Peace. I'm afraid of the Light. And I would rather be right about the meaning I think I see.  I would rather be right about why I feel the way I do.  I would rather be me."

Holy Spirit:  "Acknowledging your problem is the first step."

Me:  "Great." (I'm feeling weary and sarcastic at this point)  "Then there's only 11 more, right?"

H.S. "Heh, it depends.  If you are ready, you can Choose Again and be in Peace learning my lessons.  If you are not ready, we can take this more slowly."

All I want to do right now is feel better -- I want my little corner of the 3D world (as Carrie Triffet puts it) to be ok.  I want my life to reflect nice things, show me I'm a good person, unfold into a Happy Dream, yadda yadda yadda. 

But that's more of a compromise approach to this whole Forgiveness thing. I want to do my part in exchange for some goodies.  I do not really trust the Holy Spirit's perceptions more than I trust my own right now.  I sorta/kinda want to trust on a conscious level  -- I do know that Trust in the Truth would be a great idea for all kinds of good reasons -- but I don't do it.  I'm afraid to give up my interpretations. 

I am afraid that without my own ordering of my reality, my judging and my making decisions and taking actions, I will be left completely and utterly vulnerable.  I'll be reduced to a spineless slug melting into slime on top of a pile of salt.

H.S.:  "So what's wrong with that?  Actually, 'melting' into Light would be more accurate.  And less disgusting of an image.  You could try it out?"

Me: "Oy."

So I'm not totally ready.  It's the circle of fear that ACIM talks about.  I feel it as a clenched stomach and crazy thoughts/movies rushing through my head.  I'm still undoing big fat lies about Who I Am and Who My Brothers Are.  These lies/false beliefs are what make up the walls that we hide behind, deep down.  We forget this, so we think we're actually being influenced by the world, but it's not true.  We're the ones making the world up... all the time.  We're making it up as a defense against the Truth.

Just sitting with the deep knowing that I'm so gosh-darned powerful as a Son of God that I am creating a crazy world with my crazy thoughts feels calming. And what's more, I'm not ready to stop in this moment!  Just knowing this -- putting the Mind in touch with the real situation of it all -- is a big relief in a strange way.  

I actually was able to imagine the opposite last night -- if I'm so powerful as an ego that I can make hell, then I must be so powerful that I can make Miracles. Heaven. 

So let's just sit with that, why don't we?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Broken windows -- Part 1

Let's get heavy here, shall we?

As we've agreed before, the undoing process is not for sissies.  It requires that we question every value that we hold.  It requires that we let the Holy Spirit interpret everything for us.  It requires great Trust.

When we start, however, these  requirements seem like the equivalent of sprouting wings on demand and flying to the moon.  We have all kinds of limitations, and, worse, when our awareness begins to shift, we begin to notice a lot more than we ever knew we had.

 We have thoughts like, "DAMN!  Before I started trying to get spiritual, I thought I was basically a happy person. Now I see how insecure and hateful I am.  This can not be good.  Maybe I should go back to practicing Reiki.... Ommm......."

But we tried all the other ways, and here we are again. It's understandable why we react like we do. We are just a touch (like a ton-of-bricks "touch") horrified when we get glimpses of how our lives, thus far, have been totally driven by gross errors of thought that reinforce a guilty past in ourselves and others, by fear-based values and "hive" mind conditioning, and by upside down (and downright insane) "rules of the world."

Not only that, while we are neck deep in limitations, we generally have a pathetic pittance to draw from in our Trust account.  As we look around and survey the toxic waste, we realize we have a major Reclamation Project to undertake here.  How the hell can we afford to clean all this up??

Ah, but that's the Interesting thing.  Unlike in the world, we don't need a loan to get our Project of the ground.  We can use our two cents of Trust and watch it multiply like the fishes and the loaves.

No, All is not without hope.  All is just Perfect, in fact.  When we finally get how f***ed we are, that's when Hope arrives, ironically.  Hope/Jesus welcomes us warmly in the cesspool prison of our own mind, and then He tells us how eager He is to give us the keys to free ourselves.

In fact, He's been a voyeur the whole time...peeking through the bars...trying to throw regular Smiles our direction that we will notice...waiting patiently for us to tire of the self-floggings that we put ourselves through and the bowl of thin gruel that we settle for.  He promises it will be fun even, and that one day soon we'll be Happy Learners.

Right about then, we are pretty sure he's stoned.

When we politely (or furiously) protest that we are not worthy and can't possibly live up to His lofty aspirations for us, He gets overcome by that annoying chuckle.  We think that's a terribly inappropriate response to our serious attempts to share the "truth" about ourselves with him.  Yet I'll be damned if He doesn't tell us very clearly that he couldn't be more delighted in the fact we've finally noticed that something is terribly wrong in Denmark! He thinks it's great that we're exhausted from trying to roll giant boulders up hill, while we simultaneously build and rebuild houses of cards that keep collapsing.  He suggests that if we want Health, we might want to stop trying to make a "life" in toxic waste.

Then maybe He casts a glance over at A Course in Miracles (or some other helpful practice) and reminds us of what, He assures us, will later seem obvious to us when we get the hang of things:  We are not here to be without limitations....we are here to let them be undone in us.   And isn't it WONDERFUL, He adds, that we've finally noticed "life" sucks?  He says that noticing we're miserable (and taking responsibility for it...He sorta adds that under his breath at first) is the very first step on the Path.

(***This feels like a good time to interrupt this post to for a Coaching session:  If you ever beat yourself up for making mistakes (thinking murderous thoughts, falling into the temptations of fear that the "world" seems to continually throw at you, etc), well, stop it. 
Think with me a moment:  Why the heck would we even need ACIM or any other spiritual path if we didn't make mistakes? Of course, we make mistakes!!  

Let's make a vow together right now:  

"I hereby give myself permission to make mistakes -- oodles of them every seeming day! -- and to live boldly in pursuit of my Awakening.  I know it's only by allowing myself unconditional space to unfold -- in all my True Glory and temporary 'in-gloriousness' that I can do this.  I refuse to judge myself, so that I can open NOW to the Correction process of the Miracle.  I let my Teacher Judge me for me.  I let Him look with me on all that I mistakenly do, think, believe, value, trust, hate, love, and/or fear, which is the only thing I really ever need to do.  Amen/Over and out."

You, who are used to being an over-achiever driven by a fear of being unworthy, get to be Teacher's Pet no matter what.  Even if you don't show up for class, you get caught smoking in the bathroom, and you resist doing your Homework.  As soon as you sit back down in your seat, Teacher always gives you an A+.  Just for showing up!  That's all that's expected of you, k?  Glad we got that straight. Not that I have ever beat myself up...I just read about it once.  (ha.)****)

So we start.  We take little tiny baby steps.  We try to read ACIM, but we find we can't focus longer than 5 minutes before we get so sleepy we can't hold our eyes open, or we have an uncontrollable urge to clean our sock drawer.  We try to do the daily workbook lessons, but we forget them 2 seconds after we close the book...we skip days and it takes two decades to finish 365 lessons (okay, that might have just been me).  We try to forgive, but it feels really wrong and it's not at all fun.  We pull ourselves up on our shaky little legs, and take a step, and then we fall.  We do it again....and again....and again......

Weeks, months or years have seemingly slipped by. Decades even. Inch by inch, we make our way. We do learn, because that is our intention. We don't know much yet (although we often secretly think we do), but we know we'd like to stop suffering, and that's enough.  Thus far, we've lived our "normal"  Things don't seem to be too different, except we have a bit more Peace than before.  We have settled into student-hood.  We practice, practice, practice.  We think we've really got the hang of things and we're beginning to really Trust our Friend.  We find ourselves thinking and really meaning unbelievable things like "I Trust You to know my best interests and to Lead Me to where you want me to be for my Own Highest Good, which I know is for Everyone."

Then just about when we're pretty sure how this Awakening process is going to work -- and we project ourselves into the future as little old gray haired women/men speaking at a podium in front of junior "selves" who come to hear us pontificate about all the Truth we've learned -- Jesus gives us the Lesson about Broken Windows....holy shit.

(Stay tuned for Broken Windows - Part 2)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Cherry On Top

A Course In Miracles teaches us not to try to change the world, but to change our mind about the world.  So Occupy Wall Street becomes Occupy The Right Mind.  Once you are in your Right Mind (the part that the Holy Spirit occupies) then whatever you do, including the act of doing nothing, will be the most loving thing for all involved.

What's more, you'll be the Teacher you always wanted to be of the learning that you always wanted to learn: True Peace.

Since the cause of the world is in our mind (the world being just "a projection of an inward condition"), when we change the cause (i.e. when we allow ourselves to step into our Right Mind and grab Jesus's hand...and just look at our experience and the images of people, situations, and things that we have been interpreting through the ego), we heal our mind.  That means the effects (i.e. how we feel in the moment about the situation and all the images we have forgiven) change, too. 

What it doesn't mean, however, is that the effects change according to our script and our timeline.

In other words, we forgive the jerk on the freeway -- truly forgive him, and our self, for the judgment we put on him.  We "get" that he is showing us a denied aspect of the ego -- that he didn't cause our upset, that he just triggered a memory of something already in us.  We do it perfectly...we even thank him!  But maybe he keeps holding his middle finger out at us.

Wait, isn't the effect supposed to change?  Shouldn't he be flashing me a Peace sign now instead of the not-very-nice bird?  Dammit!  Heal, won't you?! 

Me:  Jesus, wth?

Jesus:  You rang, my lovely?

Me:  What's up with me feeling totally connected to you - loving my brother on the freeway (who is driving recklessly in a very attacking way, btw) -- and realizing it's all a dream and I made it all up, and loving him tremendously for showing me what I need to see so I can let it go...and knowing this guy is my Savior (ironically) and getting how much I really love him for that...........and then he keeps being a jerk!!

Jesus: Right.  Totally forgave, him, huh?

Me:  Well, er...I did...I think so. Yes!


Me: No.

Jesus:  Right.  This trips everyone up now and again.  It's the  whole time-and-free-will thing.  You know how I wait around, very patiently -- sometimes for days, weeks, months (and years, let's be honest) -- before you decide to join with me and get my 2 cents, so you can free your mind and be in everlasting peace?

Me: Well, yeah, that sounds familiar...

Jesus:  Well, that ability to decide when you are going to accept The Lesson of Forgiveness and free yourself is the same one everyone has.  There's really no other "free" will.  So that jerk gets to decide to come around to the gift you offered when he's damn well ready.  Maybe tomorrow...maybe next lifetime.  I will be waiting for him with your Gift in hand as soon as he gives the word!

Me: But doesn't that sorta take the steam out of the "miracles" part of A Course in Miracles?  I mean, doesn't it seem like false advertising just a tad?  Who the heck reads this damn blue book and tries to understand it for 20 years just so that all the effort they put into Forgiving will be rewarded next lifetime?!

Jesus:  Ah, but you are stuck in the world of duality.  Remember, there's only One here.  You extend that Love to the jerk in the mirror, so you can receive it for yourself right now, pronto, no delay!!  

Me: But the finger!!  I want the finger to go away! 

Jesus:  What's up with a finger?  Only the meaning you give it.

Me: Oh.

Jesus and I have had many conversations like this.  He's quick to remind me that there is no attack unless I decide so.  If I decide so, then it would be a great thing to quickly remember that I am the only one who can attack myself, and then to quietly Choose Again.  That just means, I get that there is another way to look....I can see his finger as a call for love.  A fearful call for love that is terribly afraid that it won't be answered, or that if it does get answered, it will come with a heavy handed punishment. 

It's my own call.  I need to remember again to Choose Again to receive the Love that I want so that I can truly see through the dream.

What is beautiful though -- a bit of mind-blowing Grace on wheels -- is when the finger changes into the Peace sign.  Not because you "willed" it into being with your magical Forgiveness abilities.  But because cause and effect matched up in your experience. 

This is what I call "The cherry on top."  It's humbling.  It's awesome.  It's not something you did that you get to feel proud of.  But it is something you opened to.  Your letting go of your needing to be right or victimized or attacked in some way was the act that allowed the Holy Spirit to enter your relationship (yes, you and the crazy driver have a special relationship) and make it holy.  You accepted that, you felt Peace, your brother received the gift, too, and in this case, the effects on the movie dream screen changed. 

It tastes so good.  It's the deliciousness that inspired the song, Amazing Grace. You were lost and now you are found.

But you don't always get to see with your body's eyes some effect.  So don't count on your body's eyes! Over and over, we're told that our body can't see anyway.  Use your Right Mind to tell you what's going on Truly.  Use your feeling of Peace.  Use your knowing that "all is well" and that there can't possibly be anything that Trust won't solve.

Trust your brother to turn his finger into a bear hug...he must at some point, you know?  In time.  And then trust that there is no Time...not really....and experience that hug right Now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lucid Dreamers Know "I Am That"

It's been a seeming few weeks in time since I felt inspired to share here. I don't know how it's been for you the last couple months, but I've been on a whirlwind mind trip.  It's taken me 5,000 miles across country, 40 years back in time, and at least 500,000 miles across the landscape of my so-called mind.

To describe:  It's like the familiar orbit I have called "normal" that my mind naturally takes -- the circular movement of my thought as it spirals up towards truth (and sometimes down out of fear) -- has sped up.

This is the motion that is meant when I talk about those switchbacks up the mountain, where I learn and relearn (and re-relearn) old lessons.  It's the same movement that leads me to occasional breakdowns and breakthroughs.  This movement which has been gently rolling along since I have had the awareness to notice has been put on "spin cycle."

I did not get the memo this was going to happen, but I suppose there is no way to prepare -- or better, if I'm here, then I'm safe in assuming everything leading to "here" has been preparation. It's like an ingenius cosmic cleanse!  The centrifugal force caused by the speedup has required that I either a) get a lobotomy so I can forget everything and hopefully stop the incessant spinning, b) do drugs so I can forget everything and hopefully stop the incessant spinning, or c) Let Go....and fly.

I have (mostly) opted for c, although there have been occasional glasses of alcohol involved!  Let's just say, I am deeply in the "Let Go" process.  That process also goes hand-in-hand by necessity with the verb form of "Trust."  They are inextricably linked.  A perfect pairing like fine wine and the right cheese.  You can't practice one without practicing the other. Not really.  You can maybe fake "Letting go" without "Trusting" or "Trusting" without "Letting go" to yourself and others....for awhile.  Ultimately, your shaking knees give you away. They are the tell-tale signs that you are either hiding horrific fear of the unknown, or the strain of trying to hold a house of cards together while you simultaneously try to run the world for God (who you secretly believe is a major slacker).

Either way, you fall down.

Ok, so Trust and Letting Go are old themes, so what's the big deal?

I'm a bit melodramatic, as you must know by now. But really, I don't mean that this has been a bad time.  This has been a rich time.  And a gentle time really, even in its intense moments.  I've watched myself become a "monster" (by my own estimation), biting on the fear bait that the ego casts in some situation, and speaking or acting or thinking in ways that are downright murderous at their core. And I've watched myself float effortlessly through a tense situation, not taking the ego fear/hatred bait, but instead feeling a blissful sense of Peace, all the while knowing that "all is well" despite appearances and that there could not possibly be a True Problem.  I have watched Peace unfold around and through me...the Living Miracle. Sometimes I have watched both "me's" take turns running the show at the same dinner table!

Both "me's" have stunned the Observer Me, the one witnessing.

I have noticed that identifying as Christ  -- the idea that so many of the later ACIM lessons is dedicated to -- is slowly happening. As I dedicate more of my time to forgiveness (and I seem to have a lot of time to dedicate these days, thankfully) I get glimmers of my True Self.  It's like a war that I have waged against myself for eons is fading, dropping away.  It can't remain in the light of radical, quantum forgiveness that realizes nothing real, nothing with any meaning worth keeping, has happened. Only Truth is True.  Only Innocence is Real.

The Christ identity we all share is being blocked from our awareness by our guilt about the little puppet lives -- our own and others -- that have no true reality.  The sleeping Christ is waking, though.  Laura and her "life" seem more like a dream....and the One that is Teacher is Helping her watch through new eyes that can begin to see. She sees the dragons and the fairies and they are less deceptive somehow.  Instead of fearing or hating them, she feels she really wants to Know them, because they are a part of Her whom she Loves and wants to Join with again.  She releases them from the binding veils that have disguised them from her, knowing this releases her Self.

The whole life of Laura, past, present, and future? Forgiven. The monster in front of me? Forgiven, totally innocent, and just a loving Me with a veil I put on "him".  The monster within me? Forgiven, totally innocent, and accepted as a loving Me with a veil I put on "her."

More and more, I am feeling like a Lucid Dreamer, knowing simply and without fanfare or exception "I am that" and not being so deceived by the disguise. More and more, I feel Teachers are with me everywhere, all the time at my service, waiting to love me and help me and guide me. More and more, I feel Trust in Their Words and the Love that they are here to Extend, so that I may come to Extend only what I Am.

It's like a great Play is coming to an end.  The masks are coming off and our True Beauty and Oneness are being revealed.  Now is the time to celebrate!

It may sound corny, new age-y, and trite.  I can't help it. One is watching this happen now...and Choosing what It wants to learn. Soon Laura will cease to be of any great concern as One loves her drives, compulsions, and other defenses into submission.  Lovingly.  Gently.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This blog is far too serious! Another interview with Ken Wapnick

This was just the medicine I needed as an antidote.. to my latest case of serious-itis. Please enjoy this more recent interview with Ken Wapnick, where he reminds us not to be make the ego serious, not to make the Course into a religion, and not to make waking up a goal. (Damn...there goes my over-achiever part again.)   It's another beautiful chat with Susan Dugan, shared on her blog Forays In Forgiveness.... thank you, Susan!  --L

A conversation with Ken Wapnick: Have I mentioned you’re too serious?

Renowned Psychologist, Teacher, and Author Kenneth Wapnick, PhD, has been studying, teaching, and writing about A Course in Miracles since 1973, and worked closely with Course Scribe Helen Schucman and Collaborator Bill Thetford in preparing its final manuscript. With his wife, Gloria, he is president and co-founder of The Foundation for A Course in Miracles ( in Temecula, California.
OK, so admittedly I did most of the talking when Ken Wapnick once more generously agreed to answer some questions about practicing forgiveness and looking with Jesus. Along with the other characteristics of God’s teachers mentioned in the Teachers Manual, he also demonstrates honesty, defined in A Course in Miracles as consistency. I found his response to my overly complicated questions newly humbling. “Don’t take it seriously,” he answered, in response to every query. He has said this before and will likely have to say it again because eventually we begin to try to make awakening a goal and we’re not smiling with Jesus anymore but gritting our teeth with the ego, once more seeking and never finding our self. Thank you Ken, for reminding us to quit working so hard and simply :) .

You talk a lot about forgiveness being a process of the decision maker looking with Jesus/our right mind. I’ve noticed lately in practicing forgiveness that I really want Jesus to look with me rather than look with him. 

Oh, you’re pretty slippery. And here I thought you were a nice person.

Nope. I think I need a review because that’s what I’ve been doing and what it shows me is how resistant I am to really looking. Could you go over the process of looking and maybe speak to our tendency to deceive ourselves about what we’re really doing?

Well, the whole idea of looking makes sense when you realize it’s the correction for the ego’s not looking. That’s really the bread and butter of the ego’s thought system because if you don’t look it means you’re mindless. If you look you become a mind instead of a body and if you don’t look you can never see that the ego is really nothing. Forgiveness defined as looking is really just the correction for the ego telling you not to look.
When you want Jesus to look with you, then you want him to look at your body and your experiences as a dream figure. To look with him means you look at the world and see it as a projection of an inward condition which means you go back to the mind. That’s the key. That’s why nobody wants to do it that way.

Well, I want him specifically to see how awful these people are treating me.

He just smiles at that. That’s when I get a phone call saying, “You know what she just said to me?” And then he just bursts out laughing.

I knew you were going to say that.

Well, I’m glad I didn’t disappoint you.

I have been practicing forgiveness in a special relationship each time conflict arises and experience deep comfort when I look at what’s really going on with my right mind but sooner or later feel once more attacked. I get discouraged and I suppose impatient wondering if I’m ever going to heal my mind completely about this relationship.

That’s what trips you up right there. At that point you’re making it into something serious and real and impossible when all you want to do is just look at your ego and smile at it. Don’t try to let go of your ego. I kiddingly say that Jesus hates serious people and he especially hates serious A Course in Miracles students because all they want to do is let go of their ego. And if you’re so hell-bent on letting go of your ego you’ll never let it go because the ego is not the problem.

So that impatience I feel should clue me in that that’s what I’m doing?

Exactly right.

It amazes me how quickly I can go from right-mindedness to really feeling genuinely attacked and completely out of my mind. Even though I understand what the Course is saying and am committed to practicing forgiveness it feels like an ambush. Does it ever get easier?

Yes, when you stop taking it so seriously.   You’re such a nice person, Susan, but you’re so damn serious. That’s what trips you up. It won’t start getting easier until you give up the idea that there’s an “it” that has to get easier.

So, it’s still that idea of having to do this right that’s the problem.


That’s a hard habit to break. 

Yes, it is. But the whole idea is to live lightly. As I quote all the time the problem was not the tiny mad idea but that the Son of God forgot to laugh at it. The problem is not anything of the ego; the problem is that we took it seriously.

So when we find ourselves taking it seriously the answer is looking with Jesus who only smiles?

That’s what looking with Jesus means. And he’s smiling at the silliness of ever having thought that this is important, which is silliness.

So not joining with an ego attack, just letting it all pass.

Letting it all pass which doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a behavioral response but it means you don’t get upset by it and you don’t want to change it.

And you don’t want to get upset with yourself when you do get upset.

Yes, absolutely.

I have found myself mentally complaining a lot about all the external demands on my time that seem to keep me from spending quality time with Jesus. It makes me laugh because even though I understand that A Course in Miracles is a path in relationship I still want to withdraw from relationships and just be with my right mind, be with Jesus. Does that make me a really bad student?

It makes you a really bad student only if you don’t laugh at yourself.

Because that’s really trying to take away the curriculum, right? So, don’t do that?

Not unless you want to get me angry at you. Jesus will laugh at you and I’ll yell and scream at you.

It’s just this desire to have a little time in between forgiveness lessons to breathe. Because sometimes it seems like there’s just this unrelenting, incoming barrage of lessons that just won’t quit. 

(Internationally renowned priest and author) Henri Nouwen said something like I kept getting interrupted in my work and then I realized my interruptions were my work. So, if you want to spend time with Jesus, then see him in everybody; that’s the answer.

I fear sometimes that some really catastrophic forgiveness lesson is looming around the corner. I know there’s no hierarchy of illusions but sometimes it seems that the lessons are becoming more challenging. 

It’s true that the lessons are getting more challenging because you’re becoming more and more serious.  So ego issues that you (unconsciously usually) held off; now you’re saying I can’t get it unless I look at all these spots of darkness. So these are the ones that we have the most fear and guilt associated with and so our experience is that they become more difficult.

So all of them have to come to the surface and those are just the ones we are the most frightened of?

Yes. At the beginning we tell Jesus I’ll look at this one with you and that one with you but I don’t know about this one. And after a while you say, well, I better start looking at this one because this is really starting to be a problem.

I was flying back to Denver recently in turbulence and suddenly found myself demanding to have an embodied Jesus holding my hand to protect me. I know you say we need to mature as Course students instead of relying on Jesus because we’ll never begin to see that we are one with Jesus otherwise. But when I’m really frightened I still need that thought of a hand to hold. Is that OK?

Yes, of course. You’re really too strict with yourself. Did I mention you’re too serious? Just do your daily stuff and be as normal as you can and try not to take your ego or the ego of others seriously. Be patient with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Looking with Jesus really just means sharing that sweet, knowing smile. That’s what it means. He takes nothing here seriously because there’s nothing here. And when you get serious about something especially if it’s about the Course then you’re missing the whole point.

That’s a big trap; getting too serious about the Course.

Oh, God; that’s the worst trap. That’s why we already have the regurgitation of Christianity with the Course; it’s already happening.

Yes. I wanted to ask you about the proliferation of channeled and abbreviated and new and improved versions of A Course in Miracles that are cropping up all the time. I haven’t even looked at any of them because I came to this path after a lot of seeking and I don’t believe there can possibly be anything faster or simpler or more loving than the Course.

I think that’s very true.

Can you talk about this whole impulse to improve on perfection?
It’s the ego’s thing. We tried to re-write Heaven right at the beginning and we’re still trying to. If the Course is a reflection of the truth of God and the love of Heaven, which it is; then people are going to try to re-write it, too. And that’s just another form of a magic thought talked about in the Teachers Manual. The idea is to not get angry at it because that’s what people do and there’s nothing wrong with people doing it.

You often talk about how there’s no need to teach A Course in Miracles but is there anything wrong with teaching the Course?

No, I think I do that. The whole idea is not to identify with your role of being a teacher and to also know that the real teaching is to demonstrate what the Course is saying and the formal teaching is just another way of demonstrating. And that’s what you want to identify with. If you start to get serious about your teaching then you know you got caught in the trap. Just don’t take it seriously, that’s all.

What’s really important in practicing the Course or teaching the Course is not to work at it. If you’re working at it you’ll never get it. What you want to do at this point is not to work at it during the day which means don’t work on your ego, don’t work on anybody else’s ego, don’t work on your response to anybody else’s ego; just keep asking Jesus to remember to smile. The end of Chapter 27 is wonderful because it’s all about the importance of smiling and laughing. When you read it, though; read it seriously.:)

A Course in Miracles, Chapter 27, The Healing of the Dream, VIII., The “Hero” of the Dream, paragraph 5, text page 586:
“How willing are you to escape effects of all the dreams the world has ever had? Is it your wish to let no dream appear to be the cause of what it is you do? Then let us merely look upon the dream’s beginning, for the part you see is but the second part, whose cause lies in the first. No one asleep and dreaming in the world remembers his attack upon himself. No one believes there really was a time when he knew nothing of a body, and could never have conceived this world as real. He would have seen at once that these ideas are one illusion, too ridiculous for anything but to be laughed away. How serious they now appear to be! And no one can remember when they would have met with laughter and with disbelief. We can remember this, if we but look directly at their cause. And we will see the grounds for laughter, not a cause for fear.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Tree of Death vs The Tree of Life

The tree of death
I revisit old themes today.  That is the nature of switchbacks...

We woke this morning to drippy rain-mist (Pacific Northwesterners know what this means) and chilled air that required a small fire in the kitchen stove to warm. Fall's unmistakable calling cards remind me that the wind-up game "reality" is turning another corner, as the illusion of constant change continues.  Summer, while not dead yet, is like a feeble old man. Where once he blazed in the skies like a god, heating the earth and our lives on it, giving life to its seeds and gathering unto himself his devoted worshippers (we in our sunglasses and sunscreen), now his strength has waned and he is hardly able to chew his own food.

Summer, I acknowledge again, has gone the way of all worldly things...

I sipped my coffee and, like I always do, forded, mostly blind, my somewhat weary way through the murky river of thoughts that always seem to challenge me when I wake from sleep.  It's like the storm drain has  backed up while I slept, and I wake up (in the most mundane sense) to a foot of dirty water and a mildew smell.  Clean up is necessary before I start the day, and that is what coffee, quiet, and couch-and-cat time are for.

What I have noticed is that the messy thought river is never made from new detritus.  It's always the same old shit.  It is a cloudy mix of shadows made from old relationships, old situations, old insecurities, old catch-22-type dilemmas.

It is like an old blanket that will never bring warmth or comfort again. It is worn out and faded and threadbare. Even when the threads are dressed up as "current" "new" forms, just pulling on one slightly shows me quickly they are of the same old fibers of garbage. Any value and insight has been extracted long ago....what's left is colorless, flavorless, like old already-chewed gum.  Still they appear to me like old "friends," who down-deep I know have never really loved me, but who return to tempt me into some kind of fruitless external searching yet again. I tangle with them and their twisted logic just long enough to let the caffeine kick in. Before too long, I can get more of a grip on the Holy Spirit's outstretched hand and I drop the lot of them.  

Yet what is holding them in the recesses of my sub-conscious where they run amok even while I am not aware of them must be my choice.  I know that. This is my dream.

I have been asking for inspired help on this issue of letting go of these projections once and for all.  The thought that has come is that there is a need to forgive myself for using this entire so-called life to attack myself and keep myself from Love.

I want to emphasize this.  My entire life is an attack. Not in truth (in truth it is neutral), but the ego is a jealous master, and its purpose is to keep me running, running, running, deep into the dream and far, far, away from Love.

This forgiveness prayer above is a slightly tweaked form of a very helpful prayer suggested to me by a teacher, Nouk Sanchez.  And yet lately I have been feeling that doing this piece-meal (forgiveness for this, forgiveness for that, etc.) is perhaps the issue I'm invited to consider (again) today. Perhaps it is why new temptations "out there" continually arise for me.  Perhaps all the seemingly individual forgiveness lessons are just forms of the same specialness.  Perhaps they were like dress rehearsals and small Trust deposits getting me ready to be ready to stop all the silliness and remember to laugh.

Yes, yes, yes, I see all this...with infinite patience for myself I see all this.

This life was made by the ego as a Tree of Death to borrow from a mythological concept.  We chase our dreams down its branches and never find fruit. Yes, when used by the Holy Spirit, it can all be used to lead us Home. But it won't teach us how to get Home, because that is not its job. It's job is to keep us feeling lost forever by keeping us looking for the answers in the zillions of mirror reflections we think we see.

These bodies, this earth, this season changing into next season, this job, this goal, this baby growing into adult, this family, this time--it's all a mirage.  Even those self and/or other-proclaimed "enlightened" teachers "out there" and their particular techniques or footsteps....they are at best pointers to something within. 

Yet, I see how I have been using it all at various times in various ways as a form of external searching that must leave me in a state of not-finding once again.

After the coffee, my husband and I rested in our daily lesson, which was "God is the light in which I see."  (#44 in the workbook).  I felt it work on me like a balm. 

There is no substitute for receiving our own forgiveness so that we can accept the Peace that is always everywhere.  But it won't come from anything outside. And being in the Peace that happens naturally as a result of accepting forgiveness doesn't look like anything on the outside either.

Maybe Peace chops onions for the soup or wood for the fire.  Maybe Peace seems to stand in front of people moving your mouth.  Maybe Peace looks like laying on your bed because your body won't move anymore.  It matters not. There's nowhere we need to go to accept the forgiveness waiting for us right now.  It's here. Now.

It's waiting for you and me to want it like it wants us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ken Wapnick Interview from 2010 - The Quiet Center

The following is an interview with Ken Wapnick held in 2010 by Susan Dugan who has a lovely blog I found a few weeks ago. Visit Susan’s ACIM blog, Foray’s in Forgiveness. I thank her for sharing this experience with us and hope you are as inspired by their conversation as I am. --L

The Quiet Center: An interview with Ken Wapnick

by Susan Dugan

During a recent visit to The Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Temecula, California to attend a workshop with friend and fellow Course student Deb Shelly, I interviewed premier Course scholar Ken Wapnick, PhD, about his journey with the Course.

I wanted to know how Ken perceived his role in communicating the Course’s unique message, how he viewed awakening, how he avoided specialness, how he handled celebrity, and how his application of forgiveness has evolved since his early days with Helen and Bill. His answers may surprise you as much as they did us.

I have never been around an enlightened being — my teenage daughter notwithstanding — but must say that sitting in Ken’s presence with Deb felt healing for both of us in ways we found difficult to describe. He offers the gift of his complete, unwavering attention, and seems to listen more deeply and carefully than the hundreds of people I have interviewed over the years. His answers resounded with truth, and led to my decision to publish them in their entirety (except for minor editing and restructuring for flow) rather than weaving truncated quotes into a narrative as I normally do.

NOTE: Clinical Psychologist, Teacher and Author Kenneth Wapnick, PhD, has been studying A Course in Miracles since 1973, and worked closely with Course Scribe Helen Schucman and Collaborator Bill Thetford in preparing its final manuscript. With his wife, Gloria, he is president and co-founder of The Foundation for A Course in Miracles ( in Temecula, California.

How do you avoid making your role as a Course teacher special?

It’s the difference between form and content. A line I always like to quote is where Jesus says “Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.” Teaching is demonstration and what you want to focus on is making yourself as ego-free as possible and then whatever you do will be joyful; whether you’re teaching the Course, being a parent, washing dishes, writing an essay, taking a walk. It doesn’t make any difference.

That’s how you get away from the specialness of the form. Because that’s a real seduction, you know? To think that what I’m doing is important because I’m teaching A Course in Miracles. Well, why is that any different from building a hotel or raising children or anything else? So when you get away from the form, the content will always be the same.

There’s that lovely phrase in the Course about the quiet center. And while the image is not used, it’s implicit in it that if you think of a hub of a wheel there’s that quiet center where you live and the spokes that emanate from it are your various roles: wife, teacher, mother, etc. The spokes are not important. What’s important is that you stay in that quiet center and the love in there infuses everything you do; whether you teach the Course or whether you’re playing with your grandchildren. In a sense it should all be the same and to the extent that you recognize that it’s not the same then you recognize that you still have work to do. That’s where the process comes in.

It’s really a trap when you get seduced by the form into thinking the form is something. You teach Jesus’ message by living it; not by preaching it. I’ve often said you could give a wonderful workshop just reading the phone book and if you read it with love and that love infuses every name you read; then you teach it. It doesn’t matter that you have the theology straight or the dynamics of the ego straight. Anybody can learn it, memorize it. But that’s not how you teach it. That’s not how people learn.

So it’s about using the things that seem to arise in your life and forgiving yourself when you catch yourself making it special?

Yes. If you think back to your grade school years what you remember is not the things the teachers taught you. You remember those teachers that were mean and those that were loving; you don’t really remember how they taught you reading, writing, and arithmetic. The teachers who stand out in your mind years later are the teachers who were kind or cruel. That’s what it means to be a teacher–what you demonstrate–whether you’re teaching child-rearing or arithmetic. The line from the text I also quote frequently about the New Year: “Make this year different by making it all the same.” Everything is the same.

You have a lot of people who want a lot of things from you all the time. How do you deal with that?

Again, if you really just focus on that quiet center and don’t identify with the spokes. Whether someone says that was a great class or someone says that was terrible or boring or someone asks you the same question over and over again.

I get asked a lot how can you stand to teach the same thing over and over again. People listen to tapes I made 25 years ago and it’s basically the same thing. And I sometimes make a joke; I can say the same thing over and over again because I don’t listen to myself. But really it’s because it’s always for the first time. So if someone makes a “demand,” the person’s just always talking to me for the first time. Otherwise I couldn’t do what I do. It’s all for the first time.

And certainly you don’t take personally what people say. You learn that in grad school in psychotherapy because patients are constantly projecting; they either love you or hate you. Either way it has nothing to do with you. When you become a public figure, the whole trick is to stay in that quiet center. I want to help people to be more happy and peaceful and kinder but it’s not how you define yourself. You define yourself by that quiet center and then whatever people do or don’t do; you just try to be present.

I’ve read that in the early days of the Course you and Helen and Bill and others would ask for specific guidance from Jesus or the Holy Spirit around bringing the Course into the world, for example. How has your experience asking for help from Jesus or the Holy Spirit shifted over time?

Well, to be honest Helen and Bill were very used to asking for very specific help; what street corner should we stand on to get a taxi cab, which is no small feat in New York City. And they were very, very good at getting taxi cabs at the height of the rush hour; it could be raining. And I never felt comfortable with that. I could do it, and I would do it but it never seemed quite kosher to me. And as you’ve heard me say; The Song of Prayer pamphlet came out of that. And so I think what has evolved is not so much my understanding but the way I talk about it. It was never anything I did prior to meeting Helen and Bill and it just seemed a way to circumscribe that internal presence.

In that one message I quote a lot Jesus said to Helen you’re trying to make my love more manageable. It was a way of managing him. I used to say a lot instead of worrying about which voice you’re hearing and what the voice should tell you why not ask to hear what you should do to remove the blocks so that you can hear the voice better. So it’s not that asking for specifics is not valid or it can’t help you but in the long run it’s not where you want to go. That will just help you live better in the world. I knew Helen knew better and Helen did know better; it was just part of her costume.

Did you have any level confusion early on or did it all make sense from the beginning?

I think it all made sense from the beginning. I remember Helen once asked Jesus why I didn’t have problems with all this and his answer was because there’s no time for it. And actually there wasn’t. I couldn’t have done or do all I do. It was never an issue.

How has practicing the Course’s unique form of forgiveness changed your life; your relationships?

Honestly I don’t think it has. I was really never an angry person. I don’t think anything really changed. What the Course did was it gave a specific context for what I was (already) experiencing but it was not really an issue for me. Not that I didn’t make mistakes but I didn’t hold grudges and I was not angry, even as a child. I had some experiences with my parents where I’d get upset, you know; typical adolescence. But it never really went anywhere. I was never one to hold on to disagreement; it didn’t matter.

Did you experience any undoing? Do you feel that you came into this world in a healed state of mind?

I had issues, I had problems. I look back on my life and see a difference. But by the time I first saw the Course and read it, it was like I was reading it from the inside. And while I certainly would not have said things the way the Course says them when I read them I understood they were true.

I don’t have a sense of the process (with A Course in Miracles). I think for me the process occurred earlier. My greatest spiritual teacher was Beethoven. I started listening to his music in high school and that was my teacher. I sensed something in his music that over a period of time I was growing into. I was very clear about that from high school, college, graduate school, and beyond. What was more important to me than anything else in my life—my schooling, my work, my first marriage—was getting closer and closer to what I felt was the real heart of his music. It was very clear that was a process of hearing his music over and over and hearing his process.

The ego was gone right at the end of his life; you wouldn’t have known it from his life but you can hear it in the last quartets, especially. So I saw my whole life at that point as a process of growing into that music until I felt one with it. When I first heard it in high school I knew I wasn’t there yet, so that was the journey. So that part of the journey was completed by the time I first saw the Course. After that it was just a kind of crystallizing of everything I knew was true.

What is it like to basically be peaceful all the time?

Really nice.

Is it hard to relate to other people’s stuff?

No, not at all. The first professional work I did that I did enjoy the most was working with disturbed children in the school system. I really enjoyed working with psychotic people. I could enter into their thought system. It was like going into their water but I still had a foot on dry land. I could always relate. I could hear, I could understand, and I could help bring them through and out of it.

It actually makes you much more empathetic and compassionate because no needs are imposing on it. And another thing that’s great–because I am very, very busy–is it helps you become very, very efficient in time because there’s nothing interfering. No conflict. If there’s a pile on my desk, if there are calls to make; I just do it. Often everything happens at once. It makes your life easier. You get so much more done. And it allows you to be more compassionate because you can really hear people’s pain and kind of touch it and try to help without anything interfering.

I’m still fairly new to the Course and very new to teaching. I feel very joyful and present writing, teaching, or just spending a lot of time with the material. Then something just seems to come up out of nowhere and I feel unloved and unloving. My self-worth plummets and I’m just a mess. Can you speak about what’s going on with the ego’s backlash?

I think it’s an example of such a common experience almost everyone has regardless of their spiritual path and that is as you become more and more serious about letting your ego go the part of you that identifies with the ego gets terrified. Jesus says when you take my hand on the journey the ego retaliates. He says in that same passage I am beyond the ego so when you take my hand you’re going beyond the ego. So part of you still believes you’re Susan and all the things that go into making Susan, while all of them are not pleasant; they’re comfortable. So it becomes terrifying and that’s when the love turns to hate and the peace turns to fear and you start attacking yourself or attacking others.

It’s very important to understand that and, as you work with this material, to have a healthy respect for the ego which means a healthy respect for your own identification with the ego. Because if you don’t you’ll be blind-sided. Here I am teaching and writing and feeling so kind and loving and boom; I get hit in the back of the neck. And it shouldn’t be a surprise after a while. When it happens you just say oh, that’s what happened, that’s what egos do.

You know, it’s just a book. Books are harmless; it’s nothing. It’s when you take it seriously that you have a problem. You don’t want to dismiss your ego. You want to respect it but you don’t want to give it a power it doesn’t have.

Some A Course in Miracles teachers present themselves as awakened. Is there an inherent danger in this?

I think typically people who are truly awakened don’t talk about it. I’m a little suspicious of people who say they’re awakened. I mean, why would you make that claim? You just let your life speak for you. I don’t think Jesus said he was enlightened. That doesn’t mean someone may not be enlightened who says he or she is but as a rule of thumb I think you would tend to not talk about that.

We can lose sight of the process by focusing on being awakened. When people make that claim it really tends to induce specialness and breed separation. Really you just do what you do and behind what you do is that awareness that says we’re all the same. You want to focus on the process otherwise you skip steps.

What would you say to Course students/teachers who believe they/we can experience peace of mind (in a sense return directly to God/oneness) without practicing the Course’s forgiveness in our relationships?

When you read the Course it’s obvious it’s a process of hard work and you have to practice and practice and practice. I would be very suspicious of people who claim to be enlightened and people who claim they can just go straight to their right mind. I would say 99.999 percent of the time that’s denial. It’s not that it can’t work once in a while but unless you’re ego-free you can’t do that and if you’re ego-free you don’t need forgiveness. The Course makes it clear this is a practice and a process. We’re in a world of time. I’m leery of people who say you don’t have to deal with the ego because if you say that you’ve already made it real by saying I’m not going to deal with it.

People frequently ask you questions about their relationships and problems in their personal lives in these workshops. The Course seems to be leading us to bring those questions to our inner, loving teacher. Is there a danger of students becoming dependent for answers on the external form; on you?

Obviously it’s a danger. I think what makes it OK is I don’t foster that and I don’t identify with that but I think a certain amount is helpful in the beginning stages just like a child has to begin by depending on his parents. A child’s not going to grow and learn if he or she is not dependent on the parents. But at some point the parents let the child go and you have trouble when parents don’t do that. And I’m certainly aware of all that having done therapy for many years.

People easily will project both good and bad onto me but I would not foster anyone’s dependence. Certainly I would say to some people if I can be of help to you, why don’t you ask me? There’s a line in the Course that says in effect the aim of any teacher is to make himself dispensable. You don’t want people to be dependent on you once they’re able to be on their own. It’s a danger, but I don’t think it’s a problem.

Do you have to set boundaries with your students? If so; when and how?

There’s no right or wrong. There are times when you really have to place very strict boundaries and times when you just have to give people slack. With some people placing a limit would not be helpful. Other people I do stop. It’s something you have to feel when it’s loving and when it’s not loving. To be firm sometimes is the most loving thing you can do; other times it’s not. It’s the same thing with children. Sometimes you overlook something a child does; other times you need to be very clear. It’s hard to know without feeling it from inside. But if you begin to feel badgered then you should place limits because otherwise you’re dealing with a sense of sacrifice and that’s not helpful. If you can’t freely give; then don’t give.

So overall your advice to those of starting to teach is to just be that kind and loving presence as much as possible and try to get the ego out of the way so you can hear what would be most helpful to people?

Yes. There’s a problem, too, with excessive humility. If you have the ability to help people and you don’t exercise it; that’s not helpful. If you have some information or expertise or there’s something about you as a person that could be helpful, to withhold it and say well I’m really just like you are, while true on the level of content, is not true on the level of form. So to withhold an ability to help people would be silly and unkind.

The idea is you don’t identify with it as we were talking about before. That’s the key. You don’t identify with what you do or with what people say about you, you identify with the love that you feel in that quiet center. That’s where you always want to stay and let the spokes lead out from there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My study group is in my mind.

One of the things that my little study group appears to debate on a regular basis is the ego.  Specifically, is it all bad? Or can it be, as some teachers suggest, turned into a "willing servant" of the spirit?

 It seems to me we often tailspin on a matter of semantics, although my attempts to clarify terminology have never been terribly helpful. Ironically, Course In Miracles students often love to make careers over arguing about such points, instead of allowing Jesus/Holy Spirit to help us use the situation to forgive our desire to be right.

It's like we students, who suffer from a bad case of "good intentions" while our egos have us by the throat, say, in as politically correct way  as we can muster ('cuz we're hoping that we won't be found out!), "Screw practicing forgiveness! Let's argue about forgiveness! My definition of forgiveness is way better than your definition of forgiveness, you, you, evil separation-lover!!"

::I must pause to LOL (laugh out loud)::

:: Wait, I must pause some more because this is really really funny...LOLOL::

:: I interrupt this post with one more pause. I thank my brothers for showing me how much I still listen to the ego's desire to be right, as though "being right" will make a limited me I still identify with whole somehow!  And I also thank the Holy Spirit for showing me that I am really ready to let it go now...::

:: OH AND Hallelujah Amen! ::

Phew, that felt good!

But seriously folks...(why do I feel like I'm beginning to channel Rodney Dangerfield?)
No really. Seriously. *ehem*

My deepening with this material -- and my development of Trust -- seemed to occur as I could start to embrace what the Course says very unequivocally about the ego and the world.  Ego is a term The Course uses to mean a total thought system based on separation that resulted from "a tiny made idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh."  It does not mean the more benign psychological connotation, such as a set of individual personality traits.  There is nothing good about the ego thought system.  At its essence, it is a death wish, an attempt to be separate from All That Is and, basically, replay the separation from/murder of God over and over and over.

The ego is not able to be turned into a servant of the Spirit, because it cannot know, listen to, or communicate with the Truth/Spirit at all.  It's like the daylight trying to have a conversation with the nighttime...when the sun shows up, the night is just plain gone, poofed, undone.

If Spirit told the ego-servant to go get it a cup of coffee, ego wouldn't hear the order.  Nor can the Spirit-master actually ask for the cup of coffee from the ego-servant, because the Spirit can only recognize the Truth.  Spirit doesn't take our ego and make it into something nicer and kinder and more docile. It doesn't help us learn to "make friends" with the ego, as some say. If Spirit were to see the ego, it would be an acknowledgement of what never happened.  It would make the error "real."

It would be you -- as a crazy mom or  mental-case dad -- somehow jumping into your kid's nightmare and helping him hide from the scary bear.  You'd be reinforcing that the bear threat is real and your kid's fear is justified, instead of gently and lovingly waking him up from his disturbed sleep that was full of made-up stories that don't matter. The Holy Spirit stays in the mind reflecting only the Truth to us. That's it.

At our study group, occasionally it's like the ego grabs a chair and jumps in at the first opportune moment to bait us all with whatever weakness we still have. In this case, perhaps we each have some kind of sacred cow or precious story we can't give up around the term "ego."  Since it knows you can never prove a negative, the ego at the table says, "Prove I am not able to be a willing servant!" And off  on round #112 we go to defend our positions...  *DING DING DING*

In my experience, teams seem to form as people seem to take sides, and I sometimes feel there's been no true communication at the end of our circular chatter.  That's when my ego wins a temporary victory, while the Truth waits patiently for me to seek it out.

When I'm ready for Peace, and I ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on who is right, He says predictably:

"What was the question? I don't hear any question.  No one has actually asked any question."

 (He's hinting here at the hidden ego motives buried in the conflict, which boil down to being right and making someone else wrong, and thus keeping our separated me-ness real. Damn--the Holy Spirit is clearly on to me/us!)

"However, if you'd like to ask me to help you see this mirror of your mind a different way so you can tune into Truth, go for it! I'm sitting here able, willing, and ready to remind you that your brothers are innocent and that all that has happened is that you have stepped away from Me, because you took the ego bait, and were trying to secretly get back to the business of judging. But there's only one mind, remember? So No Secrets! But you are innocent too, even if you are mistaken. So fire away! I'm all ears! I can't wait! "

"Oh, and hey..."


Holy Spirit: "Go lighter on yourself, k?"

I'm reminded, over and over and over, there certainly is no way to Truth through satisfying the egoic need to be right. And there is really no way to Peace through study or careful clarification of terms, although sometimes these seem to be steps we take.

But are they necessary? For me, maybe. For everyone else? Nope.

Some people who don't know anything about any terms or gurus or spiritual texts, but who are sick of suffering and want a better way, seem to be just waking up right and left -- in their bedroom one day for no apparent reason... or when they see a cockroach crawl over their foot... or when they have a motor scooter accident.... or when they hear the right words at just the right time and their mind pops open...or..or..or..the paths that people seem to be taking are infinite!

Now I can hear you (since you speak my mind), and you need to stop that train of thought right now.  Yes, it would be easy to compare ourselves (an ego ploy!) with all those "spontaneously  getting it" folks. We could get all mopey about being seemingly gradual Path-ers, but let's not. There is divinity in the Plan, and, besides, only an ego argues with what is. Or thinks it can possibly make a meaningful comparison!  Or worries that time -- even the time it takes to let go of the idea of time -- is real!

So for us, the Inner Teacher always come back to remind all who ask that applying forgiveness in our mind  is the only Wake Up game in town.


I'm sure this little personal study group story illustrates a common occurrence within, and the real purpose of, study groups!  I am also sure that the miracles we experience together  (after 5 years together we know each other well) are a result of allowing all this nothingness to surface.

Still, if I may play Semantics Hall Monitor for a moment more, what my friends state is true, if we slightly tweak the terminology.  The ego is death, but the forms it created -- being nothing -- are neutral.  So our personalities and everything else in the world can become willing-servant-Holy-Spirit-coffee-fetchers.

For anyone interested, I'll leave you with what my Dear Teacher Friend David Hoffmeister, a very helpful teacher of ACIM, has to say on the purpose of the ego. Enjoy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What if....

What if a light switch in you were flicked on, and suddenly you saw "you" staring back at you in everyone/everything you met?

(If all is One then this must be True.)

What if the only reason you don't have that experience NOW is that you are holding on to a belief that something was created that was not All Good?

(Even though you have read, studied, believed, and practiced that Only the Truth Is True, a little part in you resists accepting what must Be....temporarily.)

What if you decided one day (or now) -- "Enough is enough!" -- and you knew you needed to own your experience of "not love" and this led you to accepting responsibility without judgment for all the images you think you think (or see, or remember)?

("The course does not aim at teaching you love for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim at removing the blocks to Love's presence." ACIM)

What if you took a fresh view of your vain imaginings -- the deaths, the Hitlers, the sickness, the insecurity, the poverty, the greed, the competition, the manipulation -- and they began to morph, to Lighten, as you sat with them as their author?  What if just Sitting with them made them fade?

("Forgiveness is still and quietly does nothing." It's safe...go ahead. Be gentle, but ruthless.)

What if all your allegiance switched --  propelled by Trust that came as you proved your Power to yourself through the fading of the darkness by Your Simple Looking without judgement -- from the-world-rules/separation/sin to "Only Love is real"?

(Love cannot compromise. We keep our scary stories and lose ourselves in them, or we let them all go and join the Real World.)

What if the LOVE -- after melting everything down unto Itself -- stood there All Welcoming, Loving, Perfect, Sinless, and Blissfully Free?

(The Love You Are must Love You, too!)

What if now only the Happy Story resonated in you with unshakable certainty no matter where you were or what you were doing?

("The Peace of God is all I want." )

What if, in that resonating with the Happy Story -- even when Love seemed to peek at You through worldly stories for a while longer -- you realized that a world of Peace and Joy is in your mind and that You are Peace and Joy in your mind, too?

(You are in the Happy Dream where Love gives everything, including you, the only meaning that it has.)

What if seeing Your Self in Everything and Knowing Unwavering Peace for the first time, Joy were to burst out of you like spontaneous peals of child-like laughter?

Welcome Home.

On Waking Up is back: A New Beginning

I started sharing ideas at On Waking Up in 2010, almost 7 years ago now. Prior to that I'd studied A Course in Miracles for many years...