A Course in Miracles sucks us intellectual-thinker types right in. It's so big! There are so many words in three books! There are so many concepts! It says beautiful things in beautiful ways! (nevermind the gory parts) The symphonic theoretical framework is so vast and provocative and ...and there's so much theory to debate (again, who are we kidding..argue) about with our friends! A bunch of really smart people brought it into this world! The story around it is really Amazing! And when all that has been explored intellectually to death, we can move on to countless writings by others, books, cds, movies....then we can extend our pursuits further. We can go to workshops! We can hear about their Amazing Stories! Then maybe we can even HOST workshops! My goodness, we can have a career studying and teaching this stuff! We can mingle with people all over the world, we can write our OWN books, we can get a big time publisher and feel famous!
I'm laughing, and I hope you are. Not at all my Brothers, but at the ego. Helen Schucman (the book's scribe) said A Course in Miracles would be for like 5 people. Helen was definitely not talking about the number of people who would want to study it. We all love to study it! It's a great challenge to understand, and it makes our ego feel spiritual (another identity!)
She was talking about the number of people who would get drunk on it.
And this is coming up this morning as I contemplate a conversation I had last night (until 1am...how did that happen?) with an Old Dear Friend who wanted to ask me questions about ACIM. But, of course, he was also my reflection. I could feel all his intellectual questions -- sincere as they may be -- as my own resistance. Somehow if I/we could just get a good handle on how this all this Forgiveness stuff works -- the theoretical framework, the general process, the expected outcome, timeline, results, benefit-to-risk ratio (this would make a great PowerPoint presentation) -- I/we could let go and actually give it a try.
The issue here is that the ego is telling us secretly..."you are making a big mistake listening to this hogwash. Where's the scientific proof? No proof? I thought so. Go have a beer and forget all that nonsense before you screw your life up worse." So there's anxiety. And then we send those anxious thoughts out into the world to bring us proof of how right we are about NOT trying it for real. The ego is so damn clever.
And I'm not saying we don't take our little baby steps and make some progress here and there. Of course, we do..this is gradual and gentle. But lets not mistake "gradual and gentle baby steps" with avoidance. When we know better and don't, we are in fear. Let's just call it what it is..we'll feel a lot better if we do.
Undoing the ego violates everything we know, because we are identified with ego. Obviously. So if we're really practicing Forgiveness, we're going to feel really weird most of the time. If it feels too normal, it probably isn't really practicing Forgiveness. It's practicing practicing Forgiveness. It's gardening by subscribing to Sunset Magazine but never going outside. It's cooking by buying a lot of fancy cookware but never going in the kitchen. The ego gets us to think we're being helpful even...we're making the world and ourselves better.
And that's ok. But it only takes you so far. And then eventually you hit a wall. You either have to turn around and forget everything you've learned, or you have to Surrender and get all Nike about it: Just Do It.
Surrendering to Forgiveness feels life threatening...like how I felt during my first ski lesson.
Now I am not athletic. I like to hike because I've pretty much figured out how to walk. And I'm okay on a bike. But the only reason I learned how to downhill ski was that I was young and in love with a "hot dogger." (Hmm.. I suddenly feel like a grandma and maybe that is an Oscar Meyer term and not a word for "really bad-ass skier" but I mean the latter.)
So we get my rented skis on and I'm standing in the parking lot like a Damsel in Distress waiting to be rescued and taken to my post, and, while my eyes thought I was on level ground, my opportunistic skis thought otherwise. It turns out there was just the slightest incline to this parking lot, and my skis aligned just the right way to point me down the "slope" and I did not know how to do anything to help myself, so I basically skiied beautifully for my very first time, all by myself, right into a tree. In the parking lot. In front of everyone. My boyfriend returned from the car and found me struggling to get up and was not very impressed with me.
That's basically what we think will happen if we stop studying ACIM and try it.
By this point, I'm pretty sure I hate skiing, but I'm too infatuated with Boyfriend to say what I want to say..."Have fun, I'll be drinking hot toddies in the lodge." Boyfriend somehow managed to get me back on my feet and on top of the bunny slope (which compared to the parking lot looked like Mount Everest). He dropped me off with the instructor like I was being left at daycare, and took off to have some actual fun. I sat there with the other tremulous few and felt just like a 3-year-old watching daddy drive off. I did not want to play in the playdough. I wanted to go home! Then Ski Instructor came up, all handsomely weathered with a sunburned nose and unruly blond hair. He was pretty professional about it, but I did get the feeling he'd lost straws that day to be stuck with us. He verified we each had some mastery over the snow plow (the emergency stop), and then it took him 10 minutes to get us 6 Helpless Ones back in a simple row pointing the right way downhill (which my mind said was definitely the wrong way). Next he said the impossible.
Ski Instructor: "Okay, now, I want you all to LEAN IN to your boots."
Me (privately to myself): "WHAT?? **staring down at the lodge that looks tiny where it sits waaaaaaay down at the bottom of Mt Everest** That would be suicide."
Ski Instructor: "Now, as you are leaning in to your boots, I want you to turn. To turn left you need to put all your weight and focus on your right foot. To turn right, you need to put all your weight and focus on your left foot."
Me: "Where did they find this guy? You've gotta be kidding me! This will never work! We're going to DIE!"
The first Helpless One ("thank you God," I prayed, "for putting me at the right end of this line at least") took a timid foot or two down the hill and actually made something that looked a little bit like a turn. Most importantly, while she was scared stiff literally and looked a bit like an over-stuffed animal on skis, I noticed she did not actually die. One by one, we Helpless Ones did our little c-turns and did not die. Some of us fell down, but we all actually lived through that day.
Why am I telling us this? Because we can't learn to ski/awaken by reading a book. We need to get out there, in the snow, on the hill, in skis....we need to live our life and make our mistakes and use everything as a classroom. And it's really much better if we bring a Teacher with us. And we can't expect the Teacher to do it for us -- he can't even if he wanted to -- but we should listen to what he tells us....even when it sounds freakin' nuts. Especially then.
And here's another thing: Reading about skiing is no fun compared to the actual skiing. I know because I totally surprised myself and became a downhill skier that could do just about any Blue Square (intermediate) slope that you could throw at her. Of course, that was largely due to the fact I had strong motivation: Boyfriend. When he was gone, I stopped skiing. But the lesson was learned somewhere.
The Holy Spirit asks us to do all kinds of freakin' impossible things that violate our good sense and will never work: He Teaches us to accept that the world you see is happening by you, not to you. He says we need to Forgive the things that never happened in Truth. He seems to be doing double-speak when on the one hand he says we Overlook whatever attack seems to be coming from our Brother, but we Look head-on at the attack going on in our mind. Yes, He makes all the New Age teachers cringe by asking us to throw out the affirmations and just quietly Look with Him at the dark because it's the looking, not the covering over, that makes it dissipate.
And so to my Old Friend, I say that we can discuss the wine list all you'd like because I love to join that way. When that's where you are I will meet you there. Sometimes that's the best I can do, too. Until there's motivation for True Peace, studying, discussing and thinking about things is all we can expect from ourselves, and that's ok.
But to myself I say, "You can't afford to stay sober a minute longer, so pop the cork."