You Do Not Have to Learn through Pain!

1 – Awaken in Pain?

Many New Age writings emphasize the coming of Awakening, or enlightenment as a coming of pain first. Eckhart Tolle, the most obvious example of enlightenment in the modern world, endures great depression with accompanying anxiety for upwards of 30 years, before in one significant night, he fell into an abyss and awoke to find himself entranced by the ordinary objects in his bedroom. He now embodied enlightenment, and this all happened some 30 years ago. Likewise, I have a friend in my town who experienced three days of crisis that were filled with pain, and then she emerged into enlightenment. She has written a manuscript which details this experience. Her experience has also been sustained for more than 30 years.

2 – Our Way Will Be Different

Our way, when we follow A Course in Miracles, will be different. Jesus asserts that we are being prepared, the means are being given to us, to awaken without pain. It will be as if a light is turned on when we are dreaming, but instead of awakening with a mortal scream of terror, the means are being given to awaken gently and without fear. (These are all paraphrases from ACIM.) What a blessing this benign way would be for us!

3 – Learning through Rewards

Listen to this significant passage:

“No one who learned from experience that one choice brings peace and joy while another brings chaos and disaster needs additional convincing. Learning through rewards is more effective than learning through pain, because pain is an ego illusion, and can never induce more than a temporary effect. (T68)”

So we want to encourage learning through rewards, because learning through pain may be temporary. As we have seen with Eckhart and with my friend, the Awakening still may be sustained. But what a pity to let pain be the means! We do not have to let pain be the means, for Jesus assures us that we can have a joyous awakening, a freedom from pain. Both individuals whom I have cited knew joy as soon as enlightenment descended. But they knew pain just previously. Yet neither had been a student of A Course in Miracles.

4 – Revelation

Jesus says in ACIM that revelation may occasionally reveal the end to us, but to get there the means are needed. And these means are being carefully explained to us in A Course in Miracles. I myself have known two glimpses of Awakening, and, though not sustained, I remember details of the experience, the satori, and I expect that when Awakening descends, I will immediately recognize what has happened.

5 – Important Passage

The above passage is very important. It assures us (as Jesus also does elsewhere in ACIM) that we do not have to learn through pain. Here he even tells us that learning through pain will be a temporary learning at best. We long for a breakthrough to the joy that is ours to claim, and then the learning can commence in earnest.

6 – Peace and Joy from ACIM

Anyone who has studied the ACIM sincerely over years will have experienced the increased peace and joy that come with this study. Of course, if there were no peace and joy, the effort would probably have been given up fairly early upon discovery of the teaching. Not everyone, of course, finds his or her “home” in A Course in Miracles. But many do, and if you are reading this, it is likely that you are one of those who will benefit greatly from your study of ACIM.

7 – Happiness

Jesus would have us learn through rewards, because he would have us happy. Elsewhere he defines happiness as our function. This may be hard to believe for individuals who think that some sort of higher goal would not mean true happiness for the self. But the Self does not know this logic. Happiness is intended for us, even here in this world. May we go forth to let our light shine in the joy that the Course ;promises.

8 – Temporary Effect

“Learning through rewards is more effective than learning through pain, because pain is an ego illusion, and can never induce more than a temporary effect. The rewards of God, however, are immediately recognized as eternal. (T68)”

So Eckhart and my friend were experiencing, we can imagine, an ego illusion when they walked through pain to enlightenment. But ACIM aims at relinquishing the ego as the means to attain Awakening, and A Course of Love shows us what lies beyond the ego—the Christ Self, who will direct our every move into joy beyond description.

9 – Ego

“[Y]ou and your ego cannot be identical. You may believe that you have already accepted this difference, but you are by no means convinced as yet. The fact that you believe you must escape from the ego shows this; but you cannot escape from the ego by humbling it or controlling it or punishing it. (T68)”

This is a bit of a confusing passage, for elsewhere we deduce that we do need to escape from the ego. But if the ego is a part of our belief about ourselves (and it is just this), then there is another Self that has continued unabated during this time of separation from God (or presumed separation, a separation that has not been real). We need not try valiantly to cause the ego to wither away; this would only strengthen it, for this type of mental activity affirms the importance of the ego. And resistance makes what it seeks to eliminate. The correct method is simply to turn away from the ego gently. Try to avoid acting egotistically toward one’s brother or sister. We throw away our indebtedness to him/her when we act egotistically toward him/her. And this will never do.

10 – Head in the Clouds / Feet on Earth

Live with your head above the clouds but your feet on the ground. “Love and do as you will” is another statement that may be helpful to us. If we love sufficiently, we draw all good things to us, and we are less inclined to allow fear a toehold in our lives. The best way to live is to recognize that our purpose here is to live in love.

11 – Magic

And then all good things will come to us—magically, we might say (though this use of the term “magic” is different from the definition that Jesus uses in ACIM).


Dear Father/Mother,

May I know that pain is an unnecessary way to learn. I ask that I learn through rewards, which is the only lasting learning.

What a grand promise this is! Thank you. That You want my happiness is a great blessing for me to realize. May I know that any so-called higher goals do not entail my sacrifice or my unhappiness.

May I live today in love. Love and do as I will. I won’t make mistakes with this mind slant, at least not when I am fully in the mind slant. Only the ego is capable of the type of mistakes that will separate us from God and the Holy Spirit. I would not resist the ego today, but would turn aside from it gently.

Thank You for Your many blessings. And I do know many, and I have known many. This encourages me to believe that the future is bright indeed. May my brothers and sisters see this brightness for themselves as well.

And may we thank You with heartfelt gratitude.


Author: Celia Hales

I intend "Miracles Each Day" to offer inspiration and insight into A Course in Miracles, A Course of Love, The Way of Mastery, Choose Only Love, Mirari, and similar readings.

3 thoughts on “You Do Not Have to Learn through Pain!”

  1. Celia, has anyone you know ever awakened in a peaceful way through study of acim? It seems I only hear of those stories of people awakening through pain and depression. I am hopeful of a peaceful way.

    1. KJ —

      I take both Miracles magazine (published by Jon Mundy) and the Holy Encounter (published by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff), and I have read these publication for years. I may have missed something, but I have never read accounts of Awakening there. So, despite what Echkart Tolle says–that Awakening is happening more and more–I think that it is still a rather rare experience.

      I have not read accounts of easy Awakening by those who study ACIM. If others know of this, I hope that they will write to this blog, and then I will publish what they say. But Jesus indicates that we can awaken without a “scream of mortal terror”–and I believe him.

      Thank you for writing.


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