Not the Victim of the World I See

ACIM Workbook Lesson 31 – for Monday, January 31, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not the victim of the world I see.”

Selected Passage:

“The idea for today is also a particularly useful one to use as a response to any form of temptation that may arise.  It is a declaration that you will not yield to it, and put yourself in bondage.  (WB48)”

Reflections:

1 – We Choose Our Reality

We choose our reality; this is a tenet stated in the Text.  But this choice is no by the little self, but the higher Self (a tenet of A Course of Love).  We are not victims, but neither do we choose to “blame the victim,” if we think that their little selves have chosen pain for themselves.  Those things that happen to us are chosen by the higher Self, and normally we do not have access to the knowledge of what this Self wishes for us.

2 – Guidance

Guidance can explain more.  It is enough to take responsibility for our lives, not to develop a victim mentality (which will only make things worse).  We will not, according to the Text, be without temptation is this world.  But it is our task to rise above it, because we know that to try to follow a will of the ego is to dismiss God and to choose pain.  Our real will is the same as God’s Will (also from the Text).  Until we recognize this truth, we truly are in bondage.

3 – To Follow God’s Will

To follow God’s will is to be free.  Perhaps we do not understand this yet, and imagine (as the ego would have it) that to do God’s will would make of us puppets.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The Holy Spirit, in His guidance, chooses for us and all mankind.  He would never lead us wrong, and only our own misunderstandings will therefore lead us into suffering.  We will even be able to rise above pain, because we will recognize its illusory nature.  Jesus says that it is not necessary to learn through pain (a tenet of the Text).  And that learning through more joyful means is superior, because can offer only a temporary effect.

4 – The Real World

We want permanence in following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in seeing a new, real world.  May we move ever closer to this real world today.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I realize in the depths of my being that I am not a victim.  I make choices that determine what happens to me.  May I make the right choices today.

May my Self teach me.  May I be open to this teaching.  Thank You for being with me always, as I make my way through this sometimes challenging world.  I know that there is no challenge to the teacher of God, but sometimes I do not measure up–and I ask for Your help always.

Amen.

A TRIBUTE TO HUGH PRATHER

by Celia Hales

We of the Course community owe a lot to Hugh and his wife Gayle.  He died on November 15, 2010, from a presumed heart attack, but he had not been ill, and now he is not really gone.  Already he is making his presence known from the Other Side, as reported in The Holy Encounter, a publication of the Miracle Distribution Center (publisher Beverly Hutchinson MeNeff) in the January/February 2011 issue.

Gayle reports:   Hugh “made me pet Binkley [their cat] much longer than I wanted to.  Saturday he informed me that he was glad he didn’t have to clean the house.”   These are the lighthearted moments, which we so need right now, those of us still in this world.  But Gayle also recounts several other anecdotes designed to describe Hugh’s influence from the Other Side toward a gentle and communing spirit in daily life with his immediate family.

Jerry Jampolsky, in the same newsletter, reports hearing Hugh’s voice when Jerry awoke in the middle of the night, saying, “Jerry, Jerry, A Course in Miracles is absolutely correct.  It is all a dream world you are in.  It is all illusions.  It is time for you to not stop laughing at all the stuff we took so seriously.”

This second report underscores a passage from one of Hugh’s (and Gayle’s) early books, There Is a Place Where You Are Not Alone (Doubleday, 1980).  This is the first of the Prathers’ books that was directly inspired by ACIM, their very first attempt to put into words all that ACIM was coming to mean in their lives:

“Today, as every day, you have agreed to sit in a special movie theater and play a game.  The theater is very comfortable and is equipped with the ultimate in ‘sensurround’:  it simulates every sensory experience appropriate to the script.  On the screen is playing a story of your life which you never remember seeing.  Everything has been  made so real that you could easily forget that it is just a movie, but the point of the game is to not forget  Anytime you start to decide what you, the main character, should do next, special equipment will detect this, and a pleasant voice will say, ‘It is only a movie, and you cannot decide what the main character will do next because the script is already written.  So please sit back and enjoy it.’  If you add one more fact to this exercise, it will be true to life:  You wrote the script. (p. 196)”

Hugh wrote his last column for The Holy Encounter a couple of weeks before his death.  In it, he has these intimate revelations:

“There is indeed ‘a still small voice,’ but I need to have more faith in it, because it speaks as clearly to life decisions as to seemingly innocent conversational comments.  The voice is every present, but my faith in it is sporadic, and I am determined to change that. (p. 13)”

The same early book, There is a Place Where You Are Not Alone,  has this telling assertion:

“What I now see, and what anyone can discover for himself, is that this intuition, this quiet sense of direction, is always present and can be consulted directly. (p. 29)”

If Hugh, gentle and advanced teacher of A Course in Miracles that he is, still had trouble at the end in following guidance consistently, how much more can we forgive ourselves when we, too, don’t follow guidance?

On a personal note, I recall an encounter with the kind spirit of the Prathers, in this case, Gayle.

I wrote to the two of them some years back, asking the name of their editor.  I had written a book inspired by A Course in Miracles, and, as I told Hugh and Gayle, I thought that their editor might listen to what I had written with a “friendly ear.”  After a very long time, I arrived at work one morning to hear Gayle’s sparkling voice on my voice mail.  She apologized for the delay, which had happened because my letter had to be forwarded to a new publisher.  And she gave me the name of their editor.  Her voice sounded just like I would imagine an advanced teacher of God would sound–friendly, sweet, and, above all, willing to be helpful.

And her editor responded to my manuscript. She gave me several lengthy paragraphs of critique, much appreciated by me.

It is clear that Hugh has not really left us.  He is very much still interested in this world, though we don’t know everything about the Other Side, and he may go on to other interests.  I can imagine him talking to Bill and Helen (co-scribes of ACIM) right now.

May all of us ultimately leave this world the better place that Hugh made it by his presence and his love.

____

Note: Information about The Holy Encounter can be found at <www.miraclecenter.org>.

The manuscript about which I consulted with the Prathers’ editor is available on the web at <http://elainehill.wordpress.com&gt;.  Its title is Images in a Reflecting Pool.

God Is in My Mind

ACIM Workbook Lesson 30 – for Sunday, January 30, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is in everything I see because God is in my mind.”

Selected Passage:

“The idea for today is the springboard for vision.  From this idea will the world open up before you, and you will look upon it and see in it what you have never seen before.  Nor will what you saw before be even faintly visible to you.  (WB47)”

Reflections:

1 – Projection Makes Perception

Today’s affirmation (the “lesson”) is the basic idea that projection makes perception, i.e., that what we project from our minds constitutes what we perceive outwardly, making the world that we see.  Here we say “make” rather than “create,” because at this early stage in the Workbook, we are assuming that many of us are still viewing the world through the lens of the ego.  Perception, likewise, is a paler form of knowledge, and knowledge comes only when we are farther along the pathway.  God alone grants knowledge, when we are ready to receive it without miscreation.

2 – God Is Within

Today’s quoted passage is optimistic.  We are led to understand that recognizing that God is in our minds will ultimately show up vision.  And vision, real vision, is what we want above all else.  It will transform the world that we see.  The pain we will recognize as being illusion, and the beauty we will see as the real world.  This does not mean that we will not try to alleviate pain; that is part of what miracles are for.  But we work miracles as led by Jesus; we will not try, misguidedly, to make our own miracles.  That is a sure way to lose our understanding and to project folly.

3 – May Vision Come Soon

The world will look beautiful to us when vision has come.  Let us study well all of A Course in Miracles, sure that vision is its intent.  Or, as Jon Mundy says, our intent is for enlightenment.  Enlightenment, in ACIM, is what is meant by the oft-repeated call for Awakening.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

We want to see aright.  Not everything that we project, and then perceive, stands alone.  We also know reality, however haphazardly at this point.  We will “know,” as opposed to perceive, when God has granted us knowledge of the real–the love, the joy, the forgiveness of the real world.  I ask for this knowledge today.

Thank You, Father, for being here for me throughout all my days.  I know that You will lead me past perception into knowing reality, and I long for that glorious day.

Amen.

God = the All

ACIM Workbook Lesson 29 – for Saturday, January 29, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is in everything I see.”

Selected Passage:

“Nothing is as it appears to you.  Its holy purpose stands beyond your little range.  When vision has shown you the holiness that lights up the world, you will understand today’s idea perfectly.  And you will not understand how you could ever have found it difficult.  (WB45)”

Reflections:

God is the One, the All.  This idea has found its way into many of the world’s religion as well as in psychic material.  Jane Roberts’s Seth said that “God is the All.”  (Jane was an early psychic writer of the last century, who channeled Seth in open meetings and also when alone with her husband Rob, who took notes on what was said, and which was later published.)

When we say, as today’s lesson does, “God is in everything I see,” we do not mean to promulgate pantheism, which is the belief that there are many gods in all the various facets of our world.  Instead, we are realizing that God is “in” everything.  And that means “us” as well.  This tenet of ACIM goes against earlier biblical writing that said that the earth was God’s handiwork.  But the two concepts do not have to collide.  God and God’s handiwork are One.  And thus we all benefit from the fact that God is everywhere.

Mythology described by Joseph Campbell said that God made everything, one by one, as the “female” ran away from the “male,” out of fear.  But the man needed his companion, and he sought her repeatedly, becoming whatever creature she had become at the moment.  That, in myth, is how creation came to be.  It is fascinating to reflect upon how early myth captures the essence of what God’s latest revelations tell us.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

It is reassuring to know that You are the All, and that You are in me as well as in everything else.  But All is One.  Thank You for leading me to understand this intuitively, though I do not pretend to understand it intellectually.

Be with me today.  When the conflicts of this world intrude on my peace, may I keep my peace–the peace that only You can and do grant.  Thank You for keeping me safe in this sometimes scary world.

Amen.

A Completely Open Mind

ACIM Workbook Lesson 28 – for Friday, January 29, 2011

Affirmation:  “Above all else I want to see things differently.”

Selected Passage:

“You could, in fact, gain vision from just that table, if you would withdraw all your own ideas from it, and look upon it with a completely open mind.  It has something to show you; something beautiful and clean and of infinite value, full of happiness and hope.  Hidden under all your ideas about it is its real purpose, the purpose it shares with all the universe.  (WB43)”

Reflections:

1 – Focus on a Table

This passage echoes the theme of the affirmation for today (today’s “lesson”), and in a very practical way:  a focus on a mere table that may be in your view.  But the passage waxes eloquently also, and this is part of the joy of reading ACIM.  One never knows when beautiful words will just overwhelm:  “something beautiful and clean and of infinite value, full of happiness and hope.”

2 – Happiness and Hope

What does it mean to be full of happiness and hope?  It means that we have opened our hearts to God, that we are listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and, under His guidance, we are living with a loving heart.  What more could we ask in this sometimes difficult world?

3 – Our Days

Of course, not all days will go well.  That is why we often hear ministers say, “Have a great day!”  And this is not just ministers of the gospel.  We also hear our friends say the same thing, especially if we are writing in an e-mail or phoning them early in the day.

4 – Purpose

We need to know the “real purpose” of the table, so to speak, the “purpose it shares with all the universe.”  This is the criteria for the coming of the real world, which is a gift of God in which we recognize that this world dominated by the ego is illusory, and the real world is a vision of what is true.  May this understanding of the “real world” come to us beginning today.  May we thank God for this greater understanding.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I look at the common things around me with new insight today.  May I see ordinary objects as things of beauty.  May I truly see.   I know that vision such as this will not come to me by my own efforts.  It is Your gift.  Thank You.

I would see the real world today.  I know that this request is in line with what You wish for me, and that You will grant me this blessing when I have been made ready.  I know that You would wish that I be ready sooner rather than later.

Amen.

Vision

ACIM Workbook Lesson 27 – for Thursday, January 27, 2011

Affirmation:  “Above all else I want to see.”

Selected Passage:

“Vision has no cost to anyone.  (WB42)”

Reflections:

“Vision” is the term that A Course in Miracles always uses to describe the understanding that the Holy Spirit brings to us.  The Holy Spirit is the innermost part of ourselves, the part that the ego does not touch.  We may also view the Holy Spirit as intuition or an inner knowing.  And sometimes this inner knowing comes to us in actual hallucinations or, more commonly, in dreams.  (We must be careful, for not all dreams are of the Holy Spirit, and we must test the guidance that we feel.)

Vision does not harm anyone, if it is true vision.  “No cost,” the passage says.  And this “no cost” is a great blessing to all, for not only does it not cost anyone anything, it also blesses everything and everyone that it touches.  Vision is the way that we want to go.

How do we find increased vision?  We turn inward for guidance, and this leads to the vision of a loving world, for our thoughts and actions then become loving.  When we are conflicted, the whole world seems conflicted.  (Hugh Prather once wrote something similar.)  If we want to “see,” as the lesson for today stresses, we must leave behind the ego-oriented ways of old.  We must turn to the Holy Spirit for this “seeing,” this vision.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would have vision today.  I would be so enthralled by the Holy Spirit, by the Universal Inspiration, that I would follow His guidance in every instance–though I would not want to feel that this following had me in a strait jacket.  As the Manual says, the right attitude adopted in the morning will put me well ahead.

Be with me today.  Help me to know what the concept of “vision” really holds out to me.  I have only the faintest clue now, but I would know more.  Thank You for teaching me today.

Amen.

Invulnerability = No Attack Thoughts

ACIM Workbook Lesson 26 – for Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Affirmation:  “My attack thoughts are attacking my invulnerability.”

Selected Passage:

“Practice with today’s idea will help you to understand that vulnerability or invulnerability is the result of your own thoughts.  Nothing except your thoughts can attack you.  Nothing except your thoughts can make you think you are vulnerable.  And nothing except your thoughts can prove to you this is not so.  (WB40)”

Reflections:

1 – “Venting” Is Not a Healthy Choice

To act out, to vent, is often seen in our world as healthy, but A Course in Miracles would say that it is anything but.  ACIM does not counsel “stuffing” feelings, though, and to believe that ACIM recommends this is a common misconception of students and even of teachers of the Course.  Jesus would have you immediately turn the matter that is causing upset over to the Holy Spirit for resolution.  If we are angry, we are judging or interpreting, and not seeing facts.  It is always an interpretation that gives rise to anger, and, as such, the interpretation can be changed to see our brother or sister as innocent, as being in grace.

2 – ACIM and Pardon/Forgiveness

This explanation brings up the matter again of just what “pardon” and “forgiveness” really means in the understanding of A Course in Miracles.  We do not pardon wrongdoing; we recognize that everything is either an expression of help or a call for help, and, given that, our first instinctual response would be to rush to the side of our brother or sister and to offer that help.  Sometimes this idea is expressed as an expression of love or a call for love.  This love is the underlying factor.

3 – Vulnerability

When we attack, we make ourselves vulnerable to the interpretation of attack being pulled back unto ourselves.  We feel vulnerable, because we have made ourselves so.  And we will suffer for it.  There is no other way.  Forgive others and we forgive ourselves the many mistakes that we make.  Fail to forgive others, and one has failed to forgive one’s self.  And we know best how numerous are the mistakes that we have made, and for which we desire forgiveness (pardon).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I leave behind attack thoughts forever today.  If this seems too unrealistic, too idealistic, may I realize that miracles are in the hands of Jesus, and he can heal a neurotic.  I would like to feel invulnerable, and today’s lesson tries to get me to see that it is my attack thoughts that are making me feel vulnerable.

Be with me today as I relinquish attack thoughts, either kept within or verbalized.  I need Your help, because, as You know, attack is something that most of us struggle to overcome.  We get angry about virtually anything, and then we frequently lash out.  I would end such foolish behavior, starting today and continuing forevermore.  Then I learn today that I will feel invulnerable, and in fact I will be so.

Amen.

“Personal” Interests = Concern with Nothing

ACIM Workbook Lesson 25 – for Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Affirmation:  “I do not know what anything is for.”

Selected Passage:

“Another way of describing the goals you now perceive is to say that they are all concerned with ‘personal’ interests.  Since you have no personal interests, your goals are really concerned with nothing.  (WB38)”

Reflections:

We do not have “personal” interests because we are part of the Whole, the All, that is God.  Our minds are joined, and therefore we cannot choose aright for ourselves in personal interests at all.  This interpretation is not stated precisely in the Workbook, but is applied to this passage because it is an interpretation that fits in well with tenets expressed elsewhere in ACIM.

Our goals are usually wrong because they are usually ego-inspired.  Until we have walked farther along the pathway, the ego will thwart our good intentions repeatedly.  Elsewhere Jesus says that “good intentions” are not enough, and this is secular knowledge in this world as well.  We cannot choose aright as long as our minds are wrong, and our minds are wrong as long as they are ego-driven.

Ask the Holy Spirit what goals He would have you achieve.  That will save needless effort on our parts (an ACIM tenet).  In the Text, Jesus says that when the ultimate goal of Awakening is given us, it comes with just one realization, “I need do nothing.”  This is hard to understand in our ego-oriented world, because we think that we are judged by what we “do.”  But we are not.  Action that is ego-driven is indeed lamentable.  No good can come of it.  The ego is constantly being undone (an ACIM tenet), and we suffer as a result.  And this suffering is so needless.  Learn to let go of needless suffering today.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me not to be self-centered today.  When I think about personal interests, I think only of myself.  I would think of my brothers and sisters instead.  We are all One; help me always to remember this.  And we are One with You.  That is the most important point for me to remember always.

Thank You for being here for me each day.  In the mornings, I want to dedicate the day to You, and in the evenings, I want to assess whether or not I actually did dedicate the day to You.  May today be a true day of dedication.

Amen.

My Perception Is Wrong

ACIM Workbook Lesson 24 – for Monday, January 24, 2011

Affirmation:  “I do not perceive my own best interests.”

Selected Passage:

“In no situation that arises do you realize the outcome that would make you happy.  Therefore, you have no guide to appropriate action, and no way of judging the result.  What you do is determined by your perception of the situation, and that perception is wrong.  It is inevitable, then, that you will not serve your own best interests.  (WB36)”

Reflections:

1 – “Happy Dreams the Holy Spirit Brings”

We do not really know what will bring us the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings (a quotation from ACIM).”

2 – Guidance

We will only know as we follow His guidance.  We learn by doing (and thinking and feeling).  We think that we want a happy day, and we do, but we are woefully inadequate to bring this about ourselves.  We need help.

3 – Inner Knowing Awaits Us

Later on, we will go beyond the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” to the real world of inner knowing.  We will live in the dream no longer.  But happy dreams are a step on the pathway, a very important step, and we would do well to welcome them with anticipation.

4 – Leave Judgment to the Holy Spirit

There is also the statement here that we cannot judge accurately.  Elsewhere we read that Jesus has said that we cannot know all possible outcomes, and therefore we are never in a position to judge rightly.  We must leave judgment to the Holy Spirit, Who does see the whole picture.  Then and only then are we free to live the happy dreams that He brings to us.  And what a difference these happy dreams will make to our perception of our world!  We are not yet ready for knowledge, except perhaps in brief revelation.  Walk the whole pathway; leave out no steps.  And the Awakening will find us.  God Himself will reach down and lift us “up” to Him.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

My perceptions are wrong because I still let the ego interfere with my listening to the Holy Spirit.  I know that You are patient with me, but I seem to be such a slow learner.  Help me today to know my own best interests, because these best interests are what the Holy Spirit shows me through guidance.  Help me to listen to Him.

Thank You for following my thoughts and actions today.  I know that You are within and without (as I do perceive an external world), and I pray that You will help me to find that deep inner place where You are, and where everything is peaceful.

Amen.

The Way Out of Fear

ACIM Workbook Lesson 23 – for Sunday, January 23, 2011

Affirmation:  “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.”

Selected Passage:

“The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed.  Nothing else will work; everything else is meaningless.  But this way cannot fail.  Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see.  It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.  (WB34)”

Reflections:

There is power in these words, real power.  And they work; I can speak from experience.  (Of course, I believe that everything in A Course in Miracles “works.”)  But, as Neale Donald Walsch in his Conversations with God (a trilogy) has said, evolution is not a straight line.  A Course in Miracles says that if we return to attack, to making judgments, or to unnecessary planning for contingencies to come, we will fall again from the higher plane that ACIM is patiently taking us.  So it behooves us to walk carefully, lest we slip.

This passage is based, as are so many, on the premise that projection makes perception.  When we give up attack (thoughts, feelings, actions), we will see a more peaceful world, because we will not be projecting our inner state of mind outward and seeing attack poised to strike back at us.

Test out this important lesson today.  Try to spend the day, not as it might please you most, but as it might please the Holy Spirit most.  Try to spend a day without planning, following guidance consistently (but not compulsively).  Most importantly, start the day off right.  And if something goes awry, metaphorically, start the day again.  We always get second chances, though we do want to save the world and us time, and starting the day aright does save time (an ACIM tenet).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I give up attack that I might no longer have fear–at all.  I believe what Jesus has said in this very important words from A Course in Miracles.  Help me to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout the day today.  It will be a special day of dedication if I can stay true to this declaration.

Be with me today as I try to follow the best and highest that I know.  Know that I do wish to live aright, and it is only when I slip that I have problems.

Amen.

LIVING IN THE NOW; A Review of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”

Reviewed by Celia Hales.  Revised and reprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).

Tolle, Eckhart.  The Power of Now:  A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.  Novato,     California:  New World Library, 1999. (Originally published in Canada by Namaste Publishing Inc., 1997.)  224 pages.  ISBN:  1-57731-152-3.  Available on the Internet and in bookstores internationally.

Students of A Course in Miracles will want to read Eckhart Tolle’s book because it can deepen their understanding, honed through studying ACIM.   In Eckhart’s words, “in essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching. . . .Let me show you how to go more deeply into what you already have.”  There is no conflict between ACIM and The Power of Now.  Eckhart’s contribution is the amazing truth that he is one who (to use ACIM terminology) has been transported over the bridge, the little gap has closed, and he has awakened.  A Course in Miracles reads, “Healing is of God in the end.  The means are being carefully explained to you.  Revelation may occasionally reveal the end to you, but to reach it the means are needed.  (T-1.VII.5:9-11)”  For us, ACIM explains the means; but The Power of Now can assist us in our pathway to Awakening.

Did Eckhart learn “our” way?  No.  His path was the way of pain, a deep depression and anxiety that consumed him until his 29th year.  One crucial night all of that suffering was lifted from him through an experience of revelation.  Only later did he read and come to understand what had happened to him.  And ACIM was part of his study; the influence shows up in both quoted passages and core ideas from ACIM, restated and elaborated in Eckhart’s personal renditions.

Eckhart emphasizes living the present moment as the key to Enlightenment.  In this, he echoes ACIM (T-13.IV; T-13.VI; T-15.I), but Eckhart’s message is not a primary focus of ACIM.  Because Eckhart learned through pain, he elucidates this way in some detail, calling our propensity for suffering the “pain-body.”  In this, he runs counter to ACIM, which asserts, “There is no need to learn through pain.  (T-21.I3:1)”  Eckhart says that becoming more “conscious” when the “pain-body” has awakened can dissolve it and smooth the way to Enlightenment.

He describes “portals” to the “Unmanifested” (God):  going deeply into the body (as a way to bring one to the Now, the main portal); intense present-moment awareness (again, the Now); the cessation of thinking; surrender; silence; awareness of space, and “conscious death” (the final portal).  These are concepts described in ways unlike ACIM, but there is one very important concept shared by the two works:  the primacy of relationships in our pathway back to God.

Eckhart devotes one lengthy chapter to “enlightened relationships” (what ACIM calls “holy relationships”).  He declares relationships as embodying a primacy:  There is “no greater catalyst for transformation.”  Certainly ACIM students would agree.  ACIM writes of “holy encounters” and “holy instants” in which we see no past in our brothers (and therefore are living in the present, something Eckhart extols).

One Cautionary Note

I found it could be depressing when reading Eckhart to realize ever more deeply that I was not yet enlightened (or “awakened,” to use ACIM‘s term).  I found ACIM‘s reassurance helpful:

Do not despair, then, because of limitations. . .If you would be heard by those who suffer, you must speak their language.  If you would be a savior, you must understand what needs to be escaped. . . .God takes you where you are and welcomes you.  What more could you desire when this is all you need. (M-26.4:1,3-4,10-11)”

I also appreciated rereading M-22.2:4-9:

It is only the end that is certain.  Anywhere along the way, the necessary realization of inclusiveness may reach him.  If the way seems long, let him be content.  He has decided on the direction he wants to take.  What more was asked of him?  And having done what was required, would God withhold the rest?

Eckhart Tolle’s embodiment as one to whom God has reached down and lifted up, to whom God has taken His “final step” (M-28.1:8) makes Eckhart a human authority.  He is one for whom it can be said:

It [direct union with God] can, perhaps, be won after much devotion and dedication, and th en be maintained for much of the time on earth. (M-26.3:3)

ACIM students should purchase The Power of Now because it will help us to “go more deeply” (Eckhart’s words) into what we already have.

Attack = No Peace of Mind

ACIM Workbook Lesson 22 – for Saturday, January 22, 2011

Affirmation:  “What I see is a form of vengeance.”

Selected Passage:

“Today’s idea accurately describes the way anyone who holds attack thoughts in his mind must see the world.  Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike at him. . . .[T]houghts of attack and counter-attack will preoccupy him and people his entire world.  What peace of mind is possible to him then?  (WB33)”

Reflections:

This passage affirms the oft-repeated truism that when one points a finger at another, three fingers are pointed back at him (or her).  Repeatedly ACIM says that what we think or say or do to another is actually something that we are thinking or saying or doing to ourselves.  This is because projection makes perception (an ACIM tenet).  We must learn to think more kindly of our brothers and sisters in our world if we are to think more kindly of ourselves.  Otherwise, we will think that someone or something is about to strike us down.  And what peace can there be in that?

Note that we have just begun the Workbook.  We do not yet have vision, and so we are seeing vengeance.  Anger and attack are characteristics of this world, and we are very much a part of it until we change our minds.

Jesus would have us change our minds today.  Ask him for his help.  He has said elsewhere in ACIM that we can imagine that he walks with us, holding our hand.  And he has assured us that this is no idle fantasy.  He has also said that he is available for everyone at any time.  And he will come at the first unequivocal call.  These reassurances are all culled from the Text, but they are particularly appropriate in the context of this lesson today from the Workbook.  The theme is the same.  And we do have help.  We are not cast adrift in a world of vengeance, to be left there without any assistance to find our way to a better frame of mind.  This is a course in mind training, and with this lesson on this day, we have made great strides forward.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I attack nobody today, and may I not even entertain attack thoughts.  I realize that as long as I think “attack,” I will think that this attack is rebounding back to me.  I would not have this today.

Please be with me all day long.  Help me to be aware of Your presence.  Keep my mind safe and peaceful, free of attack wishes.  Then my day will go well.  Thank You.

Amen.

Slight Twinge of Annoyance = Intense Fury

ACIM Workbook Lesson 21 – for Friday, January 21, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am determined to see things differently.”

Selected Passage:

“You will become increasingly aware that a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.  (WB32)”

Reflections:

The chosen passage for today is a crucial step in understanding the message of A Course in Miracles.  Because we live in a world of illusion (a “dream”–an ACIM tenet), then our forgiveness of our brothers and sisters is always justified.  They are innocent, in a state of grace.  We do not pardon real things that have happened out of the “goodness” of our hearts.  We pardon because nothing real has actually happened; our Self has not been damaged in any way.  And this is why anger and attack are never justified (ACIM tenets).

We see today in this lesson that mild annoyance is just as disturbing to our inner state as intense fury.  This emphasis is characteristic of ACIM.  There is nothing “partial” in our world; the smallest emotion is given as much credence as that happening which would arouse tremendous emotion.

We want to see ourselves, as well as our brothers and sisters, “differently.”  We want to be able to forgive with a whole heart, holding nothing back.  When we have studied ACIM, this blessing is what is held out to us.  We will have true vision.  We will see differently.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to arrest my slight twinges of annoyance at the start, before they mushroom into intense fury.  Jesus says that actually the emotions are the same, with the former only a veil over intense fury.  May I forgive in the beginning of feeling attacked; this will abort the anger that seems automatically to arise.

I love my brothers and sisters, and I would do them no harm.  They deserve pardon (forgiveness).  My real Self has never been damaged by any attack, which is actually an illusion in this world.  May my illusions (dreams) not mislead me today.

Amen.

How to Be Happy and to Have Peace

ACIM Workbook Lesson 20 – for Thursday, January 20, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am determined to see.”

Selected Passage:

“You want to be happy.  You want peace.  You do not have them now, because your mind is totally undisciplined, and you cannot distinguish between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, love and fear.  You are now learning how to tell them apart.  And great indeed will be your reward.  (WB31)”

Reflections:

The injunction to repeat today’s affirmation twice an hour may not be easy to follow.  But great will be our reward when we remember.  We are being led to a restructuring of our thoughts, a restructuring that will allow us to distinguish pain from joy.  Believe it or not at this point, Jesus tells us that we do not really know the difference.  In fact, he says elsewhere, we may want that which will actually bring us pain, thinking that therein lies happiness.

We may also get involved in delaying tactics that will keep our salvation from us, learning things that do not count for anything, simply because their value will not last.  To want to learn things that do not count for anything does not make any sense, but then our minds are insane at this point.  We are likely to want that which will hurt us the most.

To get out of this dilemma, we are encouraged throughout ACIM to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We may know His guidance through feelings, interior words of guidance (that will do no harm, and so discernment is necessary), an inner “knowing,” and following deep prayer.  As time goes on, we will take up other ways that the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes through.  It is enough to know that it is there for all to partake, and each will have his or her unique way of understanding.  The point is that we must be flexible enough to turn on a dime, to alter our rigid ways, and to follow the guidance that comes through.

Our reward will be very great when we live a day without planning, when we let the Holy Spirit take over.  Indeed, unnecessary planning against contingencies to come is one of three ways that we fall away from the grace that Jesus offers to us.  (The other two are attack and judging.)

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Like everybody else, I want happiness and peace.  And ACIM says that these are worthy goals.  Happiness is not a selfish emotion; peace is our birthright.  May I take steps today to learn the pathway that will lead me to happiness and peace.  Help me to distinguish those things that take these goals farther away from me.

Thank You for the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit.  When I am flexible enough to follow His guidance, then I have a good day.  May I have a good day today.

Amen.

Minds Are Joined = No Private Thoughts

ACIM Workbook Lesson 19 – for Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my thoughts.”

Selected Passage:

“Today we are again emphasizing the fact that minds are joined.  This is rarely a wholly welcome idea at first, since it seems to carry with it an enormous sense of responsibility, and may even be regarded as an ‘invasion of privacy.’  Yet it is a fact that there are no private thoughts.  (WB30)”

Reflections:

Today’s lesson is, with minor exceptions, a concept that was introduced in the lesson for yesterday.  The added fact of “responsibility” is the new contribution.  We may be prone to become fearful when we realize that our thoughts have such power.  But Jesus assures us elsewhere that indeed our minds are very creative, that our minds never sleep.  He says that he knows that we do not believe this now, and the real reason is that we do not want to believe that our minds are that powerful.  This ACIM tenet appears to be based on the fact, Jesus says, that we do not want to believe that our minds are that powerful, because we are actually afraid of our thoughts.  But the mind is not impotent, and to hold our respect, it cannot be.

We are encouraged to watch our thoughts, not to fall into mind wandering.  All thoughts make form at some level, a concept that may be incomprehensible to us in our present state.  But if we realize that we are caught in a dream, we can understand more.  Our nighttime dreams are not accorded truth upon awakening, just as our daytime dreams will not be accorded truth when we Awaken.

We will be closer to Home when we do not feel the need to keep things “private.”  Not that we will share all with just anybody, but we will not be afraid that a genuine disclosure will wreck havoc.  Certainly we will not choose to say things that are hurtful, because we wish to retain our peace of mind, and to encourage peace of mind in our brothers and sisters.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I understand today that my thoughts are not private, that what I think does affect other people, and that, on some level, they know what I am thinking.  This does disturb me when I am thinking attack thoughts.  But You know that I choose not to entertain either anger or attack, and I would ask You to help me stay with this standard today.

Please be with me as my ego attempts to “make” problems where there are none.  When my thoughts are loving, there will seem to be no problems, because I take everything that disturbs me to the Holy Spirit, and He resolves the issue for me.  Thank You for the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the Universal Inspiration.

Amen.

Reading Minds

ACIM Workbook Lesson 18 – for Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my seeing.”

Selected Passage:

“The idea for today is another step in learning that the thoughts which give rise to what you see are never neutral or unimportant.  It also emphasizes the idea that minds are joined, which will be given increasing stress later on.  (WB29)”

Reflections:

We are all One.  This idea is stressed repeatedly, though we are particularly apt to overlook it in our study of ACIM.  The Manual answers a question about psychic matters, and the answer is that there are far more channels to reach us (and our brothers and sisters) than are recognized by this world.  If there were not many means, the teaching of salvation would be impossible.

Have we not all had the experience of “reading the mind” of someone near and dear to us, when we both think the same thing at the same time, and then say it simultaneously?  Likewise, we may have a bad dream about our brother or sister, and then find that he or she has also awakened in a bad mood.  These are everyday occurrences, but ACIM, I can imagine, would see them as evidence that our minds are joined.  We cannot think alone, and our actions affect others as well as ourselves.  This is the direct explanation of the affirmation for today.

A related thought to the passage for today is the fact that projection makes perception (an ACIM tenet, explained further in the introduction to the Text).  So we are encouraged in this sequence of lessons to watch our minds, not to let them wander into negative and therefore fearful thinking.  This idea may at this point sound much easier said than done, and this fact may be true for a very long time.   But, as Jesus stresses, once we are started on the pathway, the ending is certain.  Let us, as he counsels, be patient.  The Awakening is our end, and if the way seems long, let us be aware that we are seeking the highest and best that we can know (as opposed to “perceive”).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

We actually can read each other’s minds, though we are not usually aware of this when it happens.  Help us to watch our minds, and to entertain thoughts about ourselves and each other that are only uplifting.  We can do no less if we are to know Awakening.

Be with me today as I seek to think only of the good and brave in my brothers and sisters.  Help me to forgive myself, as I forgive others as well, for the wrongs that I have perceive I have done.  You are with me, to help a better day arrive.

Amen.

Thinking Amiss

ACIM Workbook Lesson 17 – for Monday, January 17, 2011

Affirmation:  “I see no neutral things.”

Selected Passage:

“Regardless of what you may believe, you do not see anything that is really alive or really joyous.  That is because you are unaware as yet of any thought that is really true, and therefore really happy.  (WB28)”

Reflections:

Keep in mind that we are just beginning the Workbook, and so the selected passage (above) is meaningful to us.  Our thoughts come before our emotions about those thoughts, though we often do not recognize this.  We seem to be overcome with a feeling or an emotion, and we then start to stress about that emotion.  However quickly the feeling follows thought, it is true (a tenet of ACIM in this lesson) that the thought comes first.  Elsewhere Jesus says that we do not watch our thoughts carefully enough; we are much too prone to mind wandering.  And mind wandering can easily take us into fear as an emotion drawn from the errant thoughts.

This is one reason that the affirmations in the Workbook are so helpful to us.  And the injunction to study and call to mind the affirmations (and similar thoughts) throughout the day.  We are in a Course of mind training.  Nothing is more important to our peace of mind but that we train our minds to think peacefully.  We need guidance in this, and here we have Jesus’s words, and inwardly we have the Universal Inspiration, or the Holy Spirit.  Jesus bids us to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit at all times, though he does say that to become preoccupied with each step of the way would not be good.  The right attitude, adopted upon awakening in the morning, will put us well ahead.  And, though time is lost, we can always, metaphorically,  begin the day again.

We want to have happy,  joyous thoughts.  And the means are being spelling out to us through the mind training that a consistent study of the Workbook will bring to us.  The Text and the Manual likewise have their place, and various students will derive more benefit from various parts of the written words of A Course in Miracles.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

When my thoughts are unhappy, help me to realize that fear has intruded, the ego is having a field day, and I need to change those thoughts.  You will guide me to change any thought that seems to hurt.  May today’s thoughts be joyous and peaceful.  May I recognize that anything else is seeing amiss.

Please help me to leave aside the ego today.  May I walk into the sunlight with only thoughts that are good, pure, and true.

Amen.

EXILE FROM GRACE

by Celia Hales

I  was five years old when I became an exile from grace.  I thought that I had done things unforgivable before God.

“Tell me everything!” Madge had screamed at me.  Madge was my babysitter.  She was 16.

I nodded from just above the covers.  Madge had put me to bed in the middle of the day for foolish childhood play.   I was terrified by my babysitter.

Then came the worst blow.   “God will never forgive you if you haven’t told me everything!”  she shrilled.

I nodded again.  This was serious.  I hadn’t told her everything.  Moreover, I had lied about what I had done.  I guess she realized this.

God had always loved me.  Now He wouldn’t anymore.  I remember a profound sinking feeling.

I had lost God.

I had stumbled, and I never forgot this.  Yet I remained a child intent on being good, as God would want me to be–as my family wanted me to be.

After my grandmother’s death in 1988, I would find a scrap of paper in her Bible in my childhood scrawl.  It said,  “I am determined to go God’s way.”  I misspelled “determined.”

Why had my grandmother left it there all those years?

Things got serious the summer that I was 11.  I was well aware that Jesus had been about his Father’s business in the temple when he was 12.  I figured that time was running out.  Repeatedly I crept away to my bedroom, to the far side of the bed from the door, hiding, and sat on the floor, my Bible in my hands.  I read lots.

“I want to be saved!”  I implored heaven.  My prayers did not seem to be answered.

The spring that I was 12 our minister talked to me about joining the church.  He only succeeded in reducing me to tears.  I was doing what I could.  He didn’t know about the hours spent sitting on my bedroom floor the previous year, reading the Bible and imploring heaven.

The pressure mounted as school started.  I had turned 13.  I could feel it coming from my mother.  One morning during Christmas vacation I sat at a card table in our den, adjacent to our kitchen.  I was pretending to read magazines.  But I was really thinking about my dilemma.  My mother was preparing lunch.

“I want to join the church,” I finally intoned solemnly.

“All right, Celia,” she replied.  “I will talk to Mr. Quick.”  Mr. Quick was our new minister.  I thought he was a nice man.

So the date was set.  As it turned out, the date of my baptism was January 17, my mother’s birthday.  That seems appropriate to me now, because I was going through the ritual to please my family.  I still did not feel ready.

Despite my best efforts, I hadn’t felt a special grace from God.

At the close of the church service, at the appointed time, I found my way down to  altar.  Mr. Quick was resplendent in a black robe with velvet bands.  I was wearing my favorite Sunday outfit, a dress of purple print with a velveteen jacket, also of purple.

The litany began.  Then my tears started.  I could not stop weeping as the litany had me repeating words that I was guilty of sin:.

“On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?

I had to respond, “I do.”

Later on:

“Will you faithfully put away from you every known sin, of thought, word, or deed, and accept and confess Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord?

I responded, “God helping me, I will.”

Was Jesus my Saviour?  I didn’t know.  I was lying.  I was still guilty of sin.

The baptismal service seemed to last a very, very long time.  My tears flowed.  Then suddenly it was over, and I was a baptized Christian, a member of the United Methodist Church.

The congregation filed past me and shook my hand.  Still I could not stop bawling.  My granddaddy got in  line, and when he reached me,  I hugged him desperately.  He had never asked anything of me other than I “be sweet.”

Once the crowd had dispersed, Mr. Quick approached my mother and me.

“A little child shall lead them,” he concluded.

I did not feel “little.”

For years ahead of me I would look upon this day as the worst day of my life.

I continued to seek.   When I was 16 and the incoming president of my church’s youth group, I attended the annual conference session of the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Duke University.  This was a week-long gathering of teenagers from all over the state.

Every evening there were breakout groups geared to special interests.  I chose Dr. Richey’s presentations.  Here was a learned man.  Surely he would give me the answers that I had not previously found in church or even in the Bible.  I didn’t believe a lot in the Bible since I had studied science in school.

“Tell it like it is,” I thought toward him–as if to will remarks from him that would make my faith secure.

He seemed, though, to be curiously reluctant to tell it like it was.  He seemed more intent on finding out where we were in our faith.

The third evening of his presentations had the topic, “Life After Death.”  Suddenly the classroom filled with people.  I actually sat on the floor, so crowded was the room.

Dr. Richey remarked, “I didn’t know that you young people would be so interested in this topic.”

I remember one other comment from Dr Richey:  “I haven’t been too impressed by these accounts of life after death that some people have written.”

I had been impressed by these reports,  and I thought he was missing something.

Then the miracle happened.  Just as John Wesley, founder of Methodism, had written, I too “felt my heart strangely warmed.”

“I have been saved,” I thought to myself.  “Yes, I have been saved.”

I told nobody.

Years of further seeking would follow, but the foundation was laid that evening. The punishment that my indiscretions as a child of five had wrought had been traumatic, but I had now, in some respects, moved beyond.

I was warmed by God’s love for the first time since a young child.

Fear Thoughts = Destructive but Unreal

ACIM Workbook Lesson 16 – for Sunday, January 16, 2011

Affirmation:  “I have no neutral thoughts.”

Selected Passage:

“There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial and not worth bothering about that it is essential you recognize them all as equally destructive, but equally unreal.  We will practice this idea in many forms before you really understand it.  (WB26)”

Reflections:

A Course in Miracles counsels that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and that only love is real.  All other emotions are derivative from these two.  We may want to deemphasize fear, when it occurs, because we have read in ACIM that it is unreal.  But it would be imprudent to deemphasize the destructive nature that unreal fear can evoke in our minds, our holy minds.  The ego, which is a part of our belief about ourselves, feeds on fear.  And when the fear and conflict are strong, the ego is strong–the opposite of what we want.

We want the ego to wither away.  We want love to take us over.  We want to feel love for ourselves as well as our brothers and sisters.  But this boon will not happen as long as we are afraid, because fear makes us unkind.  Love makes us kind, and it would be a worthy prayer to ask for more kindness in our lives.  To “be a little kinder” is one of the primary counsels of the Dalai Lama.  Jesus certainly lived this concept while on earth.  May we do no less.

So, our fear thoughts are not real, but they are real to us, because they disturb our peace of mind.  And they make it impossible to have the felt presence of God.  So, this is why, in my opinion, the lesson for today stresses, “I have no neutral thoughts.”  Fear thoughts are to be abandoned by whatever means we find helpful.  Probably the most efficacious is communion with God, which is described in the opening pages of the Text as the most meaningful kind of prayer.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would have fear thoughts just disappear, wither away–along with the ego.  I realize that I am not saintly enough to effect this on my own, but You can effect this.  I do not want the destructiveness of fear thoughts to disrupt my life.  My life belongs to You.  You take charge, I ask.

My thoughts are not neutral.  They are either positive or negative, and only the positive will lead me Home.  May I go Home sooner rather than later.  By this request, I am asking for Awakening.

Amen.

A GODSEND: DISCOVERING “A COURSE IN MIRACLES”

by Celia Hales

It was July of 1981.  I had finished a disappointing year as a lecturer in library science at a university in North Carolina.  I did not yet know the right direction for the rest of my life.  And I had not found in my readings a faith that could see me through.  Then my copy of A Course in Miracles arrived in the mail.  Once I read those volumes, nothing was ever the same again.

In the spring of 1981, Psychology Today carried a feature about A Course in Miracles.  William Thetford and Helen Schucman were still maintaining their privacy as the individuals chosen to bring forth the Course, but Bill was tentatively beginning to speak out.  After reading the article,  I immediately ordered the volumes.  They arrived very shortly, and then, inexplicably, so did a letter from a friend in another city.

“Be sure to order A Course in Miracles!” Mike insisted, and then told me how.

When I wrote back that I already had them in hand, he was astounded.  “How did you learn of them at the same time I did?” he asked in wonder.

“Celestial timing,” I thought.  Mike and I had been seekers for some time, reading Ruth Montgomery and Jane Roberts, early writers of what would become known as New Age.

I devoured A Course in Miracles, all three volumes,  in less than a week.  Repeatedly throughout the reading, I would have a question arise in my mind, only to have it answered in the next paragraph.  One sentence followed smoothly into the next, and then one paragraph just as smoothly into the one after it.  The writing was more fascinating and more real than anything I had ever found.

One pivotal day during the week I took a walk in the backyard.  The sun was blazing.  Very suddenly, I felt as though the sun’s rays were coming down directly on my head.  I was terrified, and I ran to the house and the phone to call an old friend who had once told me how much prayer meant to him.

I told Bob what had happened in the backyard.  He listened respectfully, but he did not know that I was experiencing those Great Rays about which the Course speaks so eloquently.  (T322)

Desperate for help, I called Bob several more times in the course of a day.

“This is the Awakening,” he concluded.  “I’m not sure you will know what that means.”

I did know what it meant.

As it turned out, I was one of those called upon to change my life situation almost immediately.  (M26)  I felt led to go to Texas, where I quickly secured a position in a public library.  For six months I walked around in a daze.  I was tuned into another reality, and, as the Course warns about the partially innocent, quite foolish at times.  (T38)  But in the midst of it all, I knew intimately  the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings.”  (WB270)   Then this particular dream passed,  and I left Texas to return to North Carolina.

I was blessed to continue to know happy dreams,  as my study of the Course continued, but the Awakening did not last.  I have concluded that I was not saintly enough.  More charitably, the Course maintains that revelation may occasionally reveal the end to us, but to get there the means are needed.  (T16)

When I wed my husband Paul in 1986, the Course emerged as a tremendous asset to our new marriage.  From the Course:  Our minds hold only two orders of thought–  love and a call for love.  (T295)   Attack and anger are never justified.   (T638)  I have not always been able to live up to these lofty ideals,  but they have been the bedrock on which our marriage has rested.

“You are reading your ‘happiness’ book,” Paul observed one day early on.

I sat comfortably and contentedly reading the Course.

“Yes,” I replied.  “It is that.”

I have found it a lot easier to share my life when I have stayed close to my reading.

Five years ago Paul and I made the transition into an early retirement.  We partially remodeled our house in Minnesota, to ready it for the market, and we completely remodeled our new house in Mississippi.  There was a lot of stress, and in the midst of  this busy life, I did not stay close to the Course.  Finally I returned to it, clinging to its many reassurances as I had done before in happier times.  Life gradually returned to normal.  Now we live peacefully, the stress blissfully gone.

Before 1981, I knew something about guidance from the Holy Spirit, but the Course has taught me much more.  Most days, I follow the prompting that it describes so well.  When I do,  I know joy.  As time has passed, this joy has increasingly become a bedrock and beyond anything that I could imagine.  A Course in Miracles has been my lodestone, my godsend.

Little Edges of Light

ACIM Workbook Lesson 15 – for Saturday, January 15, 2011

Affirmation:  “My thoughts are images that I have made.”

Selected Passage:

“This introductory idea to the process of image making that you call seeing will not have much meaning for you.  You will begin to understand it when you have seen little edges of light around the same familiar objects which you see now.  That is the beginning of real vision.  You can be certain that real vision will come quickly when this has occurred.  (WB25)”

Reflections:

Note the emphasis on “little edges of light around the same familiar objects.”  This miracle may happen years before what its meaning becomes clear to us.  We are, in my opinion, briefly in an altered state of consciousness.  This altered state may be brought on by our meditative stance, our deep prayer, or, more mundanely, from our stress.  It does not matter.  We are on the pathway to real vision.

Possibly this miracle occurred for us prior to our introduction to A Course in Miracles, and, if so, there is little likelihood that we knew what was happening.  The “little edges of light” are akin to the Great Rays described elsewhere in ACIM.  The Great Rays are the sense that the sun’s rays are coming down upon us with great intensity, and the miracles may be frightening.  Both miracles are perceptual, and as such they will not last (nothing that is perceptual lasts).

If the “little edges of light” occurred years earlier, we can be soothed by the realization that we have been on the pathway longer than we knew.  This is reassuring in the extreme, which is a characteristic of much that Jesus says to us in the Workbook.  “Real vision” is an indication that we can see the real world as well as the dream in which we have been lost.  At this early point, we will in all likelihood return to the dream, because no miracle, however holy, lasts.  If part of revelation, then the end has been shown to us.  And we study A Course in Miracles to determine the means of reaching that end.  The end is called Awakening (in ACIM) or Christ-consciousness (in A Course of Love).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for those little edges of light that I saw many years before I found ACIM.  I did not understand them then, but now I do.  Thank You for the harbinger that they were meant to be.

Be with me today as I go about my day without the miracle of little edges of light.  After all, that occurred only once, and that was enough.  Now my everyday life is a miracle.  Help me to recognize the miracles that happen.

Amen

Safety and Peace

ACIM Workbook Lesson 14 – for Friday, January 14, 2011

Affirmation:  “God did not create a meaningless world.”

Selected Passage:

“Our direction is toward perfect safety and perfect peace.  (WB23)”

Reflections:

This lesson emphasizes that the world that we see is not really the creation of a benevolent God.  This is a tenet of A Course in Miracles, but with our little minds, we will not understand it.  The concept owes a great deal to Gnosticism, but most of us are not students of that philosophy.  Suffice it to accept, once and for all, that the maya of Eastern religions is accurate, that we are lost in illusions; ACIM calls this a “dream.”  Some of our dreams are group dreams, and some are individual, personal.  It does not matter.  However bad things seem, we do not need to blame God for this state of affairs.  It is all unreal.

When we move toward a cleansed perception, we will move toward the “perfect safety and perfect peace” that is the passage emphasized for today.  We will look at what surrounds us, and we will make one judgment (led by the Holy Spirit), “This is unreal.”  We might also call it insanity, or madness (which ACIM also calls it).

Personally, I have found over the years that calling the negative things of this world “insanity” to be a very freeing concept.  Then I am more ready to overlook the negativity, which A Course in Miracles counsels us to do.  If we dwell on the negativity, we will make it real to ourselves, and therefore harder to overlook.  We may be taken over by it, indeed.

When we let our grievances go, we will know that we are perfectly safe (an ACIM tenet from the Workbook).  And our world will lighten up as well.  Regardless of how bad things appear, we will know that we are seeing appearances only.  We may move to correct injustices, but we will do so from a peaceful heart that recognizes that the real Self of ourselves, and the real Self of our brothers and sisters, has not been hurt in the least.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I do not wish to see a world of insanity, a meaningless world.  Let me look instead beyond the illusions that my ego, a part of my belief about myself, has perpetrated.  Let me see the real world.  Giving me that is something that only You can do, but I can offer a little willingness (all that is required) to the Holy Spirit, and then You will reach down to me.

Thank You for being with me through my day today.  Every day is good when I recall You frequently.  If I forget, then the day turns bad.  Help me, as I prepare for yet another day, to turn to You just as frequently as I remember.  And may I remember often.

Amen.

The Meaningless = Fear

ACIM Workbook Lesson 13 – for Thursday, January 13,  2011

Affirmation:  “A meaningless world engenders fear.”

Selected Passage:

It is essential, therefore, that you learn to recognize the meaningless, and accept it without fear.  If you are fearful, it is certain that you will endow the world with attributes that it does not possess, and crowd it with images that do not exist.  (WB21)”

Reflections:

In our study, we will learn that there are only two emotions:  love and fear, and the one that we choose will determine everything that happens to us.  The ego is always a fear thought; the Self chooses love, knowing that there is no better choice, and the Self chooses love by genuine forgiveness.  Our brothers and sisters are innocent, in a state of grace, because they are still as God has created them.  And this includes ourselves as well.

Certainly we want to give up fear.  It has never brought us anything but misery.  Fear with its accompanying anxiety is a false image that has been endowed with a reality that it does not actually have.  We need only change our minds, and the fear will diminish and eventually dissipate.  Forgiveness paves the way to love of ourselves (genuine love for the Self that is on the pathway to Awakening) as well as the way to love of our brothers and sisters.

May we reach out today, in love and in forgiveness, and may we see no further images of an illusory world lost in fear.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I do longer live in a meaningless world, for I wish to give up fear.  It has hampered me far too longer and far too often over the course of my life.  I would be done with it.  I realize that when we have truly “had enough,” then the blessings of Reality come upon us.  I would know Reality today, given up illusions perpetrated by the ego.

Be there for me today.  I ask this often, and I sense when You have been able to get through to me.  I need to turn inward, to You.  You are waiting.  Thank You.

Amen.

EGO DYNAMICS = “SPECIALNESS”

by Celia HalesReprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).

A close reading of A Course in Miracles suggests that the basis for egotism is a search for specialness.  For all the years prior to discovering the Course, I think I was far too egotistical, and this desire to be “special” undoubtedly constituted a particular form of neurosis.   As I have studied A Course in Miracles over the years, its significant passages have gone a long way toward setting me free of the trials of the ego, the trials borne of my misdirected desires.

Because none of us want to see ourselves as neurotic, we usually can observe this intrinsic craziness in others more often than we can observe it in ourselves.  We see oscillations of personality that appear to twist and turn in the wind.  We see our brothers and sisters alternating between sweetness and hostility.  Until we study the Course, we seldom are reflective enough to see that this oscillation is actually our own problem, projected outward.  Yet these others can make our lives miserable if they have any power over us.  And if manifesting in a peer, a friend or significant other, these conflicting behaviors are puzzling in the least, and personally damaging (though illusory, as the Course says) in the most.  We need to realize that this specialness, the neurosis of these others, is not all “out there.”  The truth is that, to one degree or another, we all think we are special.

It is just to the degree that we ascribe to specialness that we are vulnerable to the ego’s assaults, whether perceived as assaults emanating from another or from our own inner demons.   It is then that we are most vulnerable to the world’s onslaughts.  We are engaged in a dance, one to another, interlocking our complexes to fit, however unpleasant the dance may become.  Usually we see our pride pricked at the point of most vulnerability  This is the ego’s greatest trial, a time of unique opportunity for us if we can only see it thus.  We are being shown what needs to be remedied in ourselves, how the ego needs to be undone.  If we listen, we will find a gift in the ashes of our former “triumphs.”  We will let the ego wither away at the point of specialness.

And so it goes with all points of neurosis.  As they are shown to us, we must let them slip away.  Jesus is able to heal a neurotic if she is cooperating with him.  One way to cooperate is to take the intellectual framework of the Course and marry that to our relationship to our brothers and sisters.  Then the mental and emotional meld as one, and we are on our way to full recovery as Sons and Daughters of God.

When this pathway back to God is begun, the way at first seems hard, because the ego is still strong within us, and it sniffs defeat in the air and would be violent to retain control of one’s mind and heart.  Consistently listening to the Holy Spirit, prayerfully considering the promptings of guidance, will eventually smooth the way so that one knows, deep in the heart, that a withered ego is one’s only salvation.  Then is one’s real Self actually strong, no longer a will ‘o wisp in the breeze, batted about by every foreign opinion thrust upon it.  And we see that it was always the ego that suffered defeat at the hands of its “enemies.”  Always being undone, for that is God’s way, the ego is abandoned by our real Self as well.  And then the way is paved for great and faster growth as the Sons and Daughters of God we truly are. We direct this growth, informed by the Holy Spirit.  Remember that A Course in Miracles tells us that the mind is very powerful.  It also says that the reason that we don’t believe this is because we are afraid of its power:  “You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them”  (T-2.VI.9:10).  The Holy Spirit’s guidance will take the fear out of the direction in which our minds take us.

Surely we are afraid when we look around and see a ravaged world.  Did we do this?  Yes, the Course counsels, but only in illusion and only in madness.  The Course says that faith, belief, and vision, shared with us by the Holy Spirit, are our way out.  As the goal of salvation replaces the goal of sin, our steps in the mist become clearer. Faith inevitably gives us the power of persistence, but we don’t recognize the tremendous power that is unleashed until we place our faith not in sin, but in love.  It is then that the power becomes the reliable lifesaver that it is meant to be.

I was once described by one of my professors, in a letter of recommendation open for me to read,  as having an “indomitable will to succeed.”  At the time, almost 30 years ago, I took this as a compliment.  Now I see in this a glimpse of the personal power that I (and everyone else) have.  I now know that the “indomitable will” of that era was far too informed by the ego.  It was a competitive bent that later would alienate some of my co-workers.  What had worked well in our educational system worked less well in a reference unit in a university library where cooperation was necessary to accomplish shared goals.  I had to learn how to cooperate for shared goals.

Now I know that this drive to succeed is laudatory only when it is not threatening to other people, as it had been in my first position as a reference librarian.  If there is even a hint of feeling better than others, this is an example of the ego’s goal of specialness.  Jesus says, “You are not special” (T-24.II.4:1).  If we think we are, we are mistaken.   The will to succeed must encompass our fellowman as well.  The will to succeed must also be bent in obedience to the promptings of the Inner Spirit, the Holy Spirit Who guides as far as we are willing, at any given point, to go—but  only as far as we express our willingness—no further.  When we listen to the Holy Spirit, then and only then is our power truly released to serve all of humanity.

When we are at peace, we are at home in God.  When we let conflict reside within our hearts and minds, it leads inexorably to fear.  Where peace abides, love is.  And, in the Course’s terms,  it is a love that knows no specialness in ourselves or others.

Being Upset II

ACIM Workbook Lesson 12 – for Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am upset because I see a meaningless world.”

Selected Passage:

“The importance of this idea lies in the fact that it contains a correction for a major perceptual distortion.  You think that what upsets you is a frightening world, or a sad world, or a violent world, or an insane world.  All these attributes are given it by you.  The world is meaningless in itself.  (WB19)”

Reflections:

This passage is a further elucidation of the fact that projection makes perception.  Even if we are new students to A Course in Miracles, we can understand that when we feel good, we are more tolerant of our brothers and sisters.  When we are feeling down, we are more likely to welcome attack of them, an attack brought on by our anger.  And stress or depression may be the underlying emotion that is fueling the upset.

We bring to this world all that it is really is, as long as we are lost in the dream.  The dream will turn happier as we turn our lives over to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and we will dream the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” (a quotation from the Text).  This new way of seeing can follow us quite awhile, until some external event triggers doubt, and we are led to understand that we do not fully understand that even happy dreams are not the culmination of what is desirable.  The real world is, and this God grants when we are ready.  This is at the point of Awakening.  Jesus provides through ACIM the means to get to that end, and revelation may occasionally reveal the end to us in advance (a Text tenet).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to recognize why I see a meaningless world.  It is brought on by my attraction to egoistic thinking.  I do not have to view insane thoughts or attack thoughts as anything but illusion.  And then I have nothing to fear, because illusion does not accomplish anything (though we may allow it to make us absolutely miserable).

Help me today to turn aside attacks or insanity (not legal, but simply meaning that we are seeing amiss).  May I have Your help in living a sane life today.

Amen.

Meaningless Thoughts II

ACIM Workbook Lesson 11 – for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Affirmation:  “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.”

Selected Passage:

“Be glad indeed to practice the idea in its initial form, for in this idea is your release made sure.  The key to forgiveness lies in it.  (WB18)”

Reflections:

If we do not think aright, how can we perceive aright, and if this is not possible, how can what we perceive mean anything at all?  Surely we are doubting the validity of what we have seen in our lifetimes.  As Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford found out in their joint work to produce Jesus’s words, there is another way to do things in this world.  Our task is to find it.  And the underlying idea, meaningless in Heaven but meaningful on earth, is forgiveness of our brothers and sisters.

When we forgive, we are coming closer to recognizing that there is a better way to live.  Further Text, Workbook, and Manual passages explain that one’s brothers and sisters are actually innocent, that they have not done anything to our real Selves at all.  We do not pardon the real; we only pardon the illusion.  This truth is one of the hardest for the new student of A Course in Miracles to take in and to make his or her own.  But once we get past this hurdle, it is much smoother sailing afterwards.

May we move into forgiveness of the illusions that surround us, and welcome the real world, the world of knowledge rather than perception.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I recognize the innocence of my brothers and sisters in this world that appears so meaningless.  Surely they, and I, have made mistakes, but we are still children of God, Sons and Daughters of God.  May I come ever closer to understanding this truth today.

Give me a good day.  In this wintertime, my days seem long, though they are actually shorter than the summer.  Help me to turn to You when any time today seems difficult.

Amen.

THAT RED PLAID SHIRT REAPPEARS – AFTER DEATH!

by Celia Hales

I had never seen my dad in a red flannel shirt.  I was used to white shirts with ties.  But there he was in my seventh grade classroom, setting up a space heater against the bitter cold of a winter day.

You know how 12-year-old children are.

“Is that your daddy?” a classmate asked.

I thought there was surprise in her voice.

“Yes,” I replied.  “But I have never seen him look like that before!”

I was embarrassed by his casual appearance, embarrassed as only a 12-year-old, poised on the brink of adolescence, can be.

I never told him, but I think my mother did.  She would have heard about it when she picked me up from school.  I can imagine how it went.

“Where did Daddy get that awful red shirt?” I would have whined.  “It looked terrible.”

“He has had it,” she would have said.  “He got it out because it was so cold.”

That would not have satisfied me.  I wasn’t ready to claim him as my father before my classmates, looking so different from usual.

Fast forward 35 years.  My dad suffered a ruptured aortic artery.  He survived surgery, but that type of rupture carries only a ten percent survival rate.  My husband Paul and I flew to his bedside.  We shared intimate moments

I remember saying one day, “I love you, Daddy.”

I remember that he replied, “Yes, I do know that.”

Then they put him on a respirator, and he couldn’t talk to us anymore.

We got through the funeral, which featured one of my dad’s last requests, a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”  I stayed in my hometown with my mother for two weeks, to help her get on her feet.  Then I returned to my work out-of-state.

About two weeks after my return to work, I retreated after lunch to the cot room, which was a part of the staff lounge. I was exhausted from the five weeks of my father’s ordeal and the additional two with my mother.  I drifted off to sleep.

I remember hearing the door to the cot room swing open.  I slit my eyes to let in some light.

There, kneeling beside my cot, was my dad, wearing a red plaid shirt.  He was smiling, a familiar, loving smile.

I wondered, still barely awake, “Why is he wearing that shirt?”

Then I smiled to myself as I thought, “So I can recognize him.”

I drifted back to sleep.

The memory of my dad’s appearance to me a month after his death has stayed with me all these 18 years since.

Why did he appear?  I didn’t know then.  Now I think I do.  I think he wanted me to know that he would always be near.

He didn’t hold it against me that I had been embarrassed as a child by his shirt.  He would have found it amusing at the time, just as I do many years later.  It is a private joke between us.

He has never reappeared.  I do dream of him from time to time, and my dreams tell me that he is looking out for my mother also.

It is reassuring to believe that my red-shirted dad has become one of my guardian angels.

WRANGLING CREATES BEAUTY; A Review of Neal Vahle’s “A Course in Miracles: The Lives of Helen Schucman & Bill Thetford”

A Review of Neal Vahle’s A Course in Miracles:  The Lives of Helen Schucman & Bill Thetford

Review by Celia Hales; reprinted with new title from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy)

Note:  A book by Neal Vahle, published by Open View Press (San Francisco), 2009.  Available from Miracle Distribution Center, 1-800-359-2246, miraclecenter.org; or Community Miracles Center, 1-888-621-2556, http://www.miracles-course.org; or elsewhere on the Internet.  The price is slightly less than $20 plus shipping and handling.

The cover of this book tells it all:  Helen and Bill, holding hands affectionately, with smiles that suggest a deep and abiding friendship.  This is true despite the wrangling between them that never was healed.  This despite the fact that Helen and Bill sought together to find another way–a better way–to live and work together as colleagues and friends.

In the beginning, Bill and Helen saw the inner dictation that Helen was beginning to scribe as a way to heal their own relationship, which was professional and personal, despite the fact that Bill was gay and Helen, a happily married woman.  Bill was the supporter during the seven years, from 1965 to 1972, that Helen scribed A Course in Miracles.  He typed the words that she dictated, often in great distress, from her combination of shorthand and abbreviations.  Everything was done in utmost secrecy, because both were faculty members at Columbia University, and their endeavors would probably have cost them their positions.  Both were extremely successful psychologists, with great investment in the things of this world.  A Course in Miracles would eventually transform Bill and make significant changes in Helen, not all for the better.  The Course is available to us at great personal cost to both of them.

Neal Vahle does a commendable piece of work in writing this joint biography of Bill and Helen.  He ranges widely over the territory, not only telling us of the lives of these two principal figures, but also the others who helped them bring the Course before the world.  I say, “helped them,” but actually others did much of that task, for neither Bill nor Helen were interested in being gurus or in speaking for the Course as experts.  If we don’t live it, they said, how can we teach it?  Neal writes of the early life of Bill and Helen, covers the basics in describing how the Course came to be and to be published, and then concludes with two lengthy chapters on the legacy of these remarkable individuals.

This book was needed.  Vahle agreed to write it at the suggestion of Judy Skutch Whitson of the Foundation for Inner Peace.  Not a Course student in the beginning, he undertook to write an independent scholarly work, and he succeeded.  In the meantime, he studied the Course and became grateful for the opportunity to tell Bill and Helen’s story.
Vahle drew extensively on Helen’s unpublished autobiography, written soon after the scribing of the Course ended.  He also quotes very extensively from individuals such as Judy Skutch Whitson and Kenneth Wapnick, important figures in the history of the Course.  Wapnick’s biography of Helen, Absence from Felicity, would also be of interest to readers of this biography.

Bill’s importance to the scribing is not often noted, though his name always appears with Helen’s.  Vahle points out, quoting others, that A Course in Miracles would likely not exist without Bill’s support of Helen.  She was terrified by what she was experiencing, and she did not welcome the work at all, though she believed that somewhere, sometime, she had agreed to do it, and she never seriously considered quitting.   Bill and Helen did not often mention Jesus’s name in conjunction with the Course.   Wapnick, in the early publicity, was asked to make the point for them in their presentations that both experienced the voice (that Helen was receiving as inner dictation) as coming from Jesus.

Vahle makes clear the strengths and the weaknesses of Bill and Helen.  His biography is extremely frank, and sometimes painful to read, as we learn that Bill and Helen were very human individuals with real psychological difficulties, despite their obvious stature as spiritually advanced people.  His frankness is the most significant aspect of this biography, and it is a blessing for those of us who love and know the Course.  I recommend this book without reservation.

MY WEDDING DAY MIRACLE

by Celia Hales.  Revised and reprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).

This is a true story.  Not only did inexplicable things happen with a battery-operated cassette recorder, but my mind and heart were changed for the better.  I feel blessed that my wedding day miracle happened at all.

In July 1986 my husband Paul and I were married in North Carolina, on a day that started out balmy but would turn very hot and humid by 5 p.m., the time of our outdoor wedding ceremony.

The morning was splendid, crisp and clear.  There was no hint of the humidity that would descend on my poor husband-to-be at 5 p.m. as he wore a monkey suit.  Paul and I left my parents’ home in mid-morning to drive around my town in order to pick out a suitable place to eat lunch with Paul’s sister and her family, who were expected shortly.

We strolled toward the car, lost in thought about what lay ahead.  I unlocked the door on the passenger’s side, for Paul.  Immediately my voice filled the air.  It was my cassette recorder, playing a cassette of my recording of passages from A Course in Miracles.

“That’s odd,” I said.

I walked around to the driver’s side of the car, got in, reached for the cassette recorder on the floor, and clicked it off.

“If this had been playing long, it would have already clicked off,” I said.  Paul didn’t say anything.

I started driving in a distracted fashion.  I was mulling over how the recorder could have been on.  Nobody else had a car key, and I had not yet been in the car that morning.  I sensed the day, the crisp and clear day, and I felt very, very safe.

The word “miracle” reached my awareness.  But why?  My immediate reading was that this strange occurrence was meant to say to me, “If you stay close to A Course in Miracles, your marriage will be all right,”

All right.”  Not “alright.”

“You did something to click it on,” Paul said.  He is my skeptic.

“How could I?” I replied.

We rode on in silence.

We were wed and went on our wedding trip to Pennsylvania.  Whirlwind days, I all but forgot the cassette recorder.  We returned soon enough, and then traveled back to Charlotte, where we would live for six weeks before embarking for Minnesota.

In Charlotte, I remembered the recorder.  Carefully I examined the tape, carefully lest I disturb anything.  The cassette was near the beginning of its 30-minute run.  When I replayed it from the beginning, I heard a “swoosh” a few moments into the tape.

“That was the intervention,” I thought to myself.

I mulled over the import of this miracle.  A lot had happened in a brief time, and much more would happen shortly.  I would learn, for example, that I never get angry unless I am stressed.  Marriage would teach me that.  I had never realized that in 39 years of the single life.

Once settled in St. Paul, I developed a pattern of going back to A Course in Miracles whenever Paul and I had a tiff.  Of course, I read it much of the time anyway.

He noticed this.  “These are your ‘happiness’ books,” he surmised.

It is true that I was much easier to get along with when I was reading them.

Several years ago, I told my story to Lynn, a friend at work, who also happened to be a licensed grief counselor.

“There was no way that I could have tripped the recorder on,” I said.

“I believe you,” she replied.  “I have heard similar stories from my grief clients.  One woman had a table lamp in the living room come on and off unexpectedly.  She felt sure it was her dead husband.”

“That’s really something!” I exclaimed, scarcely able to contain my excitement.

“Yes,” she said.  “It must be easy for another world to affect lights and that sort of thing.”

After 24 years of married life, I think my initial interpretation of this, my wedding day miracle, was accurate.  I do need to stay close to my religion to remain on an even keel in my life with Paul.  When I get away from my reading,  I fall flat on my face in our relationship.

One such time was five years ago as we headed into retirement.  Paul oversaw the partial remodeling of our house in St. Paul, to get it ready to go on the market, as well as the complete remodeling of our new house in our new small city in Mississippi.

There was little that I could do, because the contractors looked to him for their answers.

I have heard, “If you want stress, remodel a house.  If you want a lot of stress, build a house.”  Remodeling two houses is a lot of stress.

I never get angry unless I am stressed.  I was stressed.

Now, settled beyond that bad time, I remember asking Paul once if he would do it again, would he marry me again.

He paused, then said with a straight face, “Do I have to do it in 99 degree weather?”

I replied, “No.”

He said, “O.K., then I would.”

I grinned.  He chuckled.  I grabbed him in a bear hug.

Meaningless Thoughts

ACIM Workbook Lesson 10 – for Monday, January 10, 2011

Affirmation:  “My thoughts do not mean anything.”

Selected Passage:

“Today’s thought can obviously serve for any thought that distresses you at any time.  (WB17)”

Reflections:

Before we have studied very long, we will realize that our minds have actually been so warped that we perceive nothing outside the ego that, as a part of our minds, has separated us from God.  The ego is “egotistical,” but that is not the whole of the meaning.  Freud’s meaning of the ego comes closer, in that it is an image that we make of ourselves, around which the personality coalesces.  Freud did not see a way out, though, and he seems to have thought that a strong ego was an advantage in living.

A Course in Miracles is entirely different.  This Course seeks to have rely us on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to relinquish the ego as our guide to action.   Jesus, in ACIM,  does not in any way think that this part of ourselves has done anything really good for us.  As the image of separation from God, it is constantly being undone, because God is the All, and we perceive ourselves as little parts of the whole that have not been communicating with our Creator.  And we are meant to communicate with our Creator.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I entertain no thought today that distresses me.  May I leave meaningless thoughts behind, and I know that these are the thoughts of the ego that has seemed to separate me from You.

Be with me today.  I ask for a particular day of setting aside thoughts that distress and entertaining loving and joyous thoughts.  Thank You.

Amen.

The Untrained Mind

ACIM Workbook Lesson 9 – for Sunday, January 9, 2011

Affirmation:  “I see nothing as it is now.”

Selected Passage:

“It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there.  This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms.  (WB15)”

Reflections:

This passage, as well as the lesson in which it is embedded, is a sound statement that what we are seeing is maya, or illusion.  What we project from within, we see outwardly by our perception.

This tenet of A Course in Miracles is explained succinctly in the introduction to the Text, much of which was scribed by Helen Schucman in the same manner as the rest of A Course in Miracles.  “Projection makes perception,” is the succinct statement.

Perception is not, importantly, the whole picture.  God Himself grants us “knowledge,” which is not related to perception except in the truth that as we perceive more and more truly, we can ascend to knowledge.  Knowledge is the inner knowing that becomes ours when Awakening has dawned upon our sight (our inward sight).  A Course of Love calls this Awakening “Christ-consciousness.”  Either way, the thrust of where we are heading is clear.  We are not meant to be lost in illusion, in dreams that have only the meaning that our little selves subscribe to them.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I not be lost in illusions today.  May I move ever closer to the knowledge that God grants.  When I project, and this makes for perception that is informed by the ego, I am lost in dreams.  Whether these are happy dreams sent by the Holy Spirit (to prepare us for Awakening), or whether they are nightmares, is not ultimately important.  The most important part of salvation is to awaken, and in the Text, the means to awaken are being explained to us.  Thank You.

May I study diligently today all the parts of ACIM that call to me.  May the comforting words found therein lead me ever closer to a new beginning, the kind of new beginning that is explained in the Text.  Thank You for this blessing.

Amen.

Preoccupied with Past Thoughts

ACIM Workbook Lesson 8 – for Saturday, January 8, 2011

Affirmation:  “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.”

Selected Passage:

“This idea is, of course, the reason why you see only the past.  No one really sees anything.  He sees only his thoughts projected outward.  (WB13)”

Reflections:

This passage is a major statement on a basic tenet of A Course in Miracles.  We see our thoughts projected outward.  We create our reality.  When we see suffering, we must come to realize that it is a dream, that it is not real.  Likewise, the happy dreams that we project and see through our perception are just as unreal.  But the happy dreams come as we change our minds about our purpose in this world.  We are being prepared for Awakening, the means of which are explained in ACIM.

“Projection makes perception,” a refrain in the Text, is explained here.  We do not have actually an outer world at all; we are living a dream, a mass dream that is shared by our brothers and sisters and all of the material world.  “There is nothing outside you” is stated in the Text also.  And Jesus continues that this is what we must ultimately come to understand.  Not everybody is ready to accept this metaphysical tenet.  And the practical ACIM does not ask us to accept that for which we are not ready.

We do not wish our minds to be preoccupied with past thoughts.  The past is over; let us move into the present and ultimately into the future.  But we can only live in one reality at a time, and that ought to be the present.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I live in the present today; may I leave the past behind, and may I understand that what I see are my thoughts projected outward.  If this seems strange to me (and it does), may I rest in the surety that Jesus is trustworthy.  He will take me where I am, and then lead me gently to understand the metaphysics of what he is saying.  I do not have to struggle to understand anything that is presently difficult for me to accept.

Thank You for Your presence in my life.  I love you.  And I will try to live in the present today.

Amen.

The Past

ACIM Workbook Lesson 7 – for Friday, January 7, 2011

Affirmation:  “I see only the past.”

Selected Passage:

“Old ideas about time are very difficult to change, because everything you believe is rooted in time, and depends on your not learning these new ideas about it.  Yet that is precisely why you need new ideas about time.  This first time idea is not really as strange as it may sound at first.  (WB11)”

Reflections:

1 – Incapable of Living Only in the Present

We are, at this point, totally incapable of living only in the present.  We will become better at present-living experience as we progress in ACIM.  Our minds constantly rehash what has happened before, and how can this lead to progress when our minds have been insane (a tenet of ACIM)?

2 – Strange Lessons

These first lessons do appear strange to the uninitiated to ACIM.  But, as we live with the ideas, we come to understand, and we learn that the world is really a welcoming place when the mind is at peace.

3 – Finding Peace

And that is what we are trying to become–peaceful, having a mind filled with peace.  Elsewhere in ACIM we are told that the aim is to be “perfectly calm and quiet” all the time.  At this point in our ACIM training, we might not welcome this idea.  We might think it too non-dramatic to lead a satisfying life.  But as we learn more, we will be happy for the peace that “perfectly calm and quiet” brings.   We will not regret the learning that we are assimilating.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I live a day today in which I do not seek the past in the present.  The past has overshadowed my life for my entire lifetime.  Let this dynamic end today.

I would be perfectly calm and quiet today.  I would have peace of mind.  Neither of these two sentences can come true with Your guidance.  I ask for Your guidance today, to make of this day a memorable one that will presage better days ahead.

Amen.

There Are No Small Upsets

ACIM Workbook Lesson 6 – for Thursday, January 6, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”

Selected Passage:

“There are no small upsets.  They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.  (WB10)”

Reflections:

Minor irritation, ACIM says elsewhere, is no more than masked rage.  So we are seeing in ACIM a system of thought that levels the playing ground.  We cannot know peace until we give up all forms of upset–the minor as well as what we have perceived as the major.

We are never upset by facts, Jesus says elsewhere in ACIM, but always by an interpretation of those facts.  And if it is an interpretation, we can alter it by our will, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we magnify small upsets to make them larger than they need to be.  It is an interpretation (not stated in ACIM) that this is the reason that we see things that are not there.  We magnify, and thus we see amiss.

Jesus would have us eliminate all upsets from our minds, even though this is a utopia that is not likely to be seen until we reach the Awakening.  When faced with an upset, immediately (and this means exactly that), turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance about what to say or do.  The upset will diminish, in exact proportion to the extent to which we turn it over to a Higher Power.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Let me eliminate all forms of upset today.  I can imagine incidents that may happen; help me not to jump ahead of myself and to fantasize about what may never happen.  Give me the grace to seek Your guidance in all things.  When I seek Your guidance, the words that are given me will be higher and better than anything that I could conceive on my own.  Tell me what to say today.

I would like a peaceful day, and I know that this is Your desire for me as well.  Help me to do my part to bring about a peaceful day, knowing that You will always do Your part when I am able to cooperate fully.

Amen.

Being Upset

ACIM Workbook Lesson 5 – for Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am never upset for the reason I think.”

Selected Passage:

“I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go.  For the purposes of these exercises, then, I will regard them all as the same.  (WB9)”

Reflections:

1 – Follow the Guidance of the Holy Spirit

This lesson is a particularly intriguing one, in my estimation.  There are always hidden reasons for why we feel as we do, and, try as we may, we normally cannot uncover what is truly bothering us.  Jesus would have us stop the pretense of understanding, and just to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

2 – Drop Rebellion

We do have to drop our rebellion about His guidance to follow Him willingly.  All too often, we are reluctant to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance in every instance, and sometimes we are hesitant to follow even in most instances.  The right stance, adopted as the day begins, will (a Manual tenet) set the day aright.  Of course, as the Manual says, we can always begin again if the day begins in error.  But there are obvious advantages in beginning well in terms of saving time.  Moreover, we are bade in the Manual not to become preoccupied with each step in the process of following the Holy Spirit.  But the right attitude, accepted as the day begins, will allow us to proceed well.  And that is all that Jesus really asks.

3 – When Upsets Come

When upsets come, and they will, we are to stop momentarily, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.  How might we understand how to do this?  There is no simple answer; the usual ways that we try to control our anger will do–if they are added to a simple and sincere request for help from a Higher Power.

4 – We Are Not Upset for the Reason We Think

We are not upset for the reason that we think.  Why is this?  We do not understand our ego’s wily ways sufficiently to understand what it is that is really upsetting us.  We never should try to analyze this, in fact, because the ego approves of analyzing the ego’s “dynamics,” thus affirming its importance.  So let it be enough that we realize that there are deeper reasons for our usual upsets than we will ever be able to ferret out.  And then let us let it all rest in God’s hands.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I find myself upset for one reason or another nearly every day.  That just seems to be the way of this world.  Help me to turn these upsets, whether major or minor, immediately over to You.  And then let me turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance in how to live better.  He will tell me.  I need only to ask and to ask in sincerity.

Thank You for Your part in giving me a good day.  May my upsets today be small, and may I immediately realize that there is a better way to live–Your way.

Amen.

Are My Thoughts Meaningless?

ACIM Workbook Lesson 4 – for Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Affirmation:  “These thoughts do not mean anything.  They are like the things I see in this room.”

Selected Passage:

“You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that,  in a sense, none of them can be called ‘good’ so ‘bad.’  This is why they do not mean anything.  (WB6)”

Reflections:

1 – Finding Our Way Out of Confusion

Our minds are confused.  Even we know this.  And thoughts that do not mean anything are not meant to be believed.  Judging our thoughts would only confuse us as of yet.  Elsewhere, later on in both the Text and the Manual, we learn that it is up to the Holy Spirit to make these judgments, because we are totally incapable of seeing the whole picture.

2 -Don’t Scare So Easily

We can scare ourselves with our thoughts; this happens all the time.  But do we realize that we can actually effect some change in those thoughts?  We can turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and He will still our minds.  Nothing else is truly worthy of the time spent in this world.  Salvation is our only function (a Workbook tenet).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I let my own little judgments go.  They are not worthy of me.  I cannot know the whole situation.  But there is One who does know:  the Holy Spirit.  May I leave all judgment to Him, knowing that His judgments only are true, based on everything, including that which is beyond my perception and even my knowledge.

Be with me today as I seek to eliminate my own judgments from my life.  In essence, I know that my own judgments are meaningless, but the ego would have me think that they are sound.  May I realize today that only the judgments of the Holy Spirit are sound.

Amen.

Understanding Amiss

ACIM Workbook Lesson 3 – for Monday, January 3, 2011

Affirmation:  “I do not understand anything I see in this room.”

Selected Passage:

“These are not exercises in judgment.  Anything is suitable if you see it.  Some of the things you see may have emotionally-charged meaning for you.  Try to lay such feelings aside, and merely use these things exactly as you would anything else.  (WB5)”

Reflections:

We are individuals steeped in confusion, even when we think we know the most.  It is very necessary in these first lessons to avoid the emotional, and to see everything just as it is.  This is not unlike Zen Buddhism, where the object is seen for what it is only.  Whatever one is doing, he or she just “does.”  We do not project meaning onto the world that may only confuse an already troubled mind.

For the perennial student of the Workbook, these first few lessons may seem tedious.  After all, we think we know that projection makes perception (an oft repeated assertion in the Text), and we know that what the ego perceives is always lamentable.  But, we still can learn, once a year, from these early lessons.  We reinforce in our minds the fact that the ego has probably still retained a foothold in our minds.  And we would not have it to be thus.  Exercises such as these early ones can prepare us for ever more attempts to disown the part of our mind called the “ego.”

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May my ego wither away this year.  I am impatient, because my mind is filled with the statements of Your Course.  Yet I have not walked the whole pathway yet, and I know this well.  Help me to disown that part of my mind called the “ego.”  May I reach, ever upward, toward Awakening.

Thank You for being with me as this new year begins.  I have great hopes for a good year.  This year spent with Your Workbook for Students is an exciting way to live.

Amen.

Meaning Comes from Me

ACIM Workbook Lesson 2 – for Sunday, January 2, 2011

Affirmation:  “I have given everything I see in this room all the meaning that it has for me.”

Selected Passage:

“Remain as indiscriminate as possible in selecting subjects for. . .application, do not concentrate on anything in particular, and do not attempt to include everything you see in a given area, or you will introduce strain.  (WB4)”

Reflections:

This second lesson makes the first a little clearer.  Note that there is a logical progression.  Jesus does not want us to experience strain in our lives, and he makes sure in what he gives us in ACIM that we build on what we have previously read, so that we are not frightened by the ego’s wily ways.

We have given our world its meaning.  In itself the world has none that is apart from us.

This understanding is assuming that we are viewing from the ego’s perspective, which virtually all of us do when first confronted with the A Course in Miracles.  The ego’s perspective means that we do not have knowledge from God; we do have perception of the ego, which leads to the projection of the world that we see.  These are all ideas developed in the Text.  But it is the Workbook that will lead these ideas to come to have understanding for us, and thus to lead eventually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to knowledge from God.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to understand that what I see has been given its meaning by me.  If this meaning is a perception of the ego, then I will see a fearful world.  But I do not want to see a fearful world today.

Help me to see a  loving world today.  Help me to realize that the choice of the meaning that I see in this world is, ultimately, my choice–informed by either the ego or the Holy Spirit.  Help me to see the loving world of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.