Category Archives: Articles & Book Reviews

RIGHT OR HAPPY?

Note: Published in MIracles magazine (Jon Mundy, publisher).

by Celia Hales

“Seek not outside yourself. . . Do you prefer that you be right or happy? . . . No one who comes here but must still have hope. . .that there is something outside of himself that will bring happiness and peace to him.  If everything is in him, this cannot be so.”  (ACIM, T-29.VII.1:6, 9; 2:1-2)

“I asked within A Course in Miracles: Would you rather be right or happy?  For happiness can only be the result of perfect trust.  And perfect trust emerges from perfect loyalty.  And perfect loyalty emerges spontaneously in the mind that has rested in surrender.”  (“The Way of Knowing,” WOM, Lesson 31, Page 353)

“Your mind might still prefer to be right rather than happy, so it is important that you let your heart lead in making this new choice.”  (ACOL, C:10.18)

            Jesus comes right to the point when he asks the question, “Do you prefer to be right or happy?”  He knows that a large part of our difficulty is found in our stubbornness in special relationships, special relationships that he would ask us to transform into holy ones.  We ask for friction when we prefer being right.  We move to a conciliatory frame of mind when we let the heart feel love, and then let the heart lead us to a better type of interaction.

            This is simple psychology.  Secular psychology, but it points to the spiritual in the manner in which Jesus discusses it.  We are asked to trust, and this trust comes about automatically when we surrender to God—and to love.  Our way back home, according to ACIM, is found in our relationship to our brother [and sister].  These significant relationships heal us, and a large part of the healing is in our own attitude—an attitude that doesn’t cling obsessively to our own point of view. We turn within to find happiness and peace.  And these cannot be found if we are intent on being “right” in relationships.  Turn aside from the ego to let our heart speak.  Our heart will then inform our mind, and we will understand how our function can be happiness, salvation, forgiveness, and giving miracles.

MY GLIMPSES OF AWAKENING

by Celia Hales

Published in Miracles magazine, July – August 2014 (publisher Jon Mundy; editor Fran Cosentino).

I have had two glimpses of Awakening, both years ago. I was 23 and, then, 34 – 35. I did not sustain either glimpse, but I remember what these glimpses felt like, and they are warm memories for me which encourage me still.

When I was 23, I spent the summer in Italy as an instructor in a study abroad program for the college where I taught freshman composition. I eased into a sense of total freedom from worry, a sense that enveloped me as I started the trip. I had no apprehension whatever about traveling to New York’s Kennedy International Airport and finding my group of fellow travelers amid that hubbub. Yet at that time I had flown rarely, and also I had previously been a worrier, being greatly apprehensive about my graduate work and even my undergraduate classes.

I remember the freedom from constraints that I felt on arriving at Kennedy. I remember walking across the airport floor, heading toward friends with whom I would be traveling. My glimpse had started without any pain, and, indeed, no pain intruded as my glimpse unfolded over the summer. A Course in Miracles says that there is no need to learn though pain. (T-21.I.3:1) And I didn’t, not now, not all summer long.

Once we got to Italy and ultimately to the boys’ school where we would be lodged, I had spent 24 hours without sleep. Normally this would be a difficult feat for me, for I needed my sleep in those days. It did not faze me.

We got settled soon enough. I took my first trip into Florence on the city bus. I walked the streets by myself, unafraid, though young men gazed at me, a common occurrence in Italy. Since they only looked casually, I had no reason to be anything but appreciative of their interest.

Soon I met Emilio. He was a customer in a camera shop, a camera shop where I had gone to try to get my broken camera repaired. I did not yet speak much Italian, and my college Spanish was not enough. I turned to this stranger, and asked, “Do you speak English?” He shook his head, “No.” And then he followed me out the door, where he asked me, in French, for a date. I didn’t turn him down, but I did suggest that he bring friends with him for a group date with a handful of women students. He agreed, and he and his friends showed up that night. All went well.

My glimpse of Awakening was helped by Emilio, helped greatly. A Course in Miracles says that we need to judge not, and we will awaken. (T-29.IX.2:5) I did not judge Emilio. Once we were out driving the countryside when the car stalled. He edged over to the side of the road, a deserted road, and opened the hood. He became increasingly frustrated when large drops of rain began to fall. I watched all this with amusement, not worried at all, absolutely not. He beat on the engine with a wrench, and, for whatever reason, the car started up again. But I had known that we would be fine.

Fast forward to age 34. I had just discovered A Course in Miracles and I was reading its pages as fast as I could, amazed at what I found. In the middle of my reading, I took a trip to Washington, DC, to audit a course at Catholic University. Once I got to DC, I quickly became lost in terrible traffic. But did it faze me? Not a bit. I stopped several times to ask directions, perfectly confident that I would get to the university sooner rather than later. And I did. A Course in Miracles says that when we awaken, we will realize that we need do nothing. (T-18.VII.5:7) The car seemed to be driving itself, though I was doing my part almost unawares. My glimpses of Awakening had started once again.

Back home form the class, I felt led to move to Texas, which I did—without the promise of a job, though I did have some savings in hand. Once there, I found an apartment, applied for one position with a public library, and waited—patiently. Within three weeks, I had started what would be a six-month stint of employment. I was gainfully employed, but with a mind with its head in the clouds. Many synchronicities happened, many things that now I would call miracles. A Course in Miracles says that when miracles do not happen, something has gone wrong (T-1.I.6). Something had gone very right. I was living in an altered state of consciousness, and I was living without any worries or fears—just as in Italy over a decade earlier. But after six months, the experience began to fade. My vision seemed less sure. Yes, I had begun to judge again—a prohibition of A Course in Miracles.

All these years since, I have remembered those two times of no worry, no fretting, a time in which Providence seemed to move to protect me. If I had not doubted that this state of events would continue, would I have sustained Awakening? I don’t know. But the glimpses do help me to see what awaits on the horizon. I may never reach Awakening, sustained, in my lifetime, but I have seen what joy there is for the individuals who do awaken.

And I have hope.

THE GIFT CALLED GUIDANCE

Published in Miracles for November/December 2012 (publisher Jon Mundy).

by Celia Hales

A Course in Miracles would have us defer to the Holy Spirit in our decisions.  This guidance is true, and it does not always have to be constant in our lives.  But it can be.  Let me explain.

“Does this mean that you cannot say anything without consulting Him?  No, indeed!  That would hardly be practical, and it is the practical with which this course in most concerned.  (M71)”

Jesus goes on in this passage to recommend consulting with the Holy Spirit in the morning, asking for the His guidance when it is feasible to do so, and then thanking Him at night.  In other passages throughout the Manual, though, Jesus goes further in recommending that we turn over our decisions increasingly to the Holy Spirit.  He speaks of this need particularly in regard to judgmental thinking, which he indicates that accuracy is impossible for us, because we do not know all the facts–past, present, and future–that impinge on a given decision.  If Jesus really means this (and I feel certain that his words are very intentional), how might we turn our decisions, especially our judgments, increasingly over to the Holy Spirit?  How do we know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to us?

My own reflections over the years of studying ACIM have evolved from a primary dependence upon feelings, or intuition, to a broader recognition that the aspects of life that we cannot get out of our minds may be the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  Here is a 10-point list with some commentary of the ways that I have discovered guidance acting in my life.  Do not take anything unto yourself unless it finds a place in your heart.

1 – Listening in Prayer.  The “listening” time of prayer is the best way that I believe that I receive guidance.  I am careful, though, not to forget that my own desires may interfere with what I “hear,” and that I may make a mistake.  Many have said that God speaks in the silence, and I think this is an appropriate way to seek His Will.

2 – Keep a Prayer Log.  In the early eighties the spiritual writer Catherine Marshall recommended keeping a prayer log, very specifically, with prayers listed succinctly and then the answer, when it was received, recorded and dated.  I followed this recommendation for the remainder of the eighties and into the nineties, and I found it very, very useful.  (Probably I should return to this practice.)

3 – Intuitive Advice.  In daily life I receive guidance through a feeling that I ought to take a given course of action.  “Feeling” is akin to intuition, but that is not the whole of it, I think.  I believe that our minds, our intellects, frequently interfere with receiving the Holy Spirit’s messages, and that the Holy Spirit finds it easier to reach us through our emotions, our feelings.

4 – Intrusive Words.  Sometimes I am able to be in a spirit of inspiration, and, much as if I were writing without being sure what I would say next, words come into my mind from my unconscious that suggest a given pathway.  I do not actually hear a voice; it is my own thinking, but it also seems to be a bit beyond me.

5 – An Inner Knowing.  Quiet times may bring forth an inner knowing of how to proceed in a matter that is troubling us.  This is non-verbal, akin to hearing the Holy Spirit in our innermost hearts.  This “knowing” without being able to verbalize “how” we know is powerful stuff.  I think that it is certainly one of the most potent forms of guidance.

6 – Journaling.  Writing out our struggles in a journal is a way to invite the Holy Spirit’s input.  I try to let my conscious mind die down and to invite thoughts from my deepest spirit.

7 – Dreams.  In especially faithful times, we may have a dream that appears vivid and suggests the next step for us in our life.  Certainly dreams and visions are important ways in which God spoke to His people in the past, as recorded in Scripture.  I have had two significant “warning” dreams in my life that I still recall vividly.  The dreams came when I was contemplating a pathway that I now realize would not have been healthy for me.

8 – Agitation.  Occasionally in my life I have become severely agitated when I was walking along a given pathway.  I have come to see such agitation as evidence from the Holy Spirit that I am walking the wrong way.

9 – Visions.  Many years ago, when I was 25, I had a series of nighttime hallucinations, or visions, that became important to me in setting the pathway for my life.  Perhaps there was a reason that this gift came at an early age.  The visions have not recurred.

10 – Signs.  Signs are welcomed by many, but I would caution against too much an emphasis here, because it is very easy to twist signs around to mean anything that we want.  (Jesus says in ACIM that we can twist symbols around.)

I have not followed blindly.  Jesus would not have us check our minds and spirits at the door.  I have tested out my perceived guidance, and that is how I have found it true.  I invite you to do the same.  Intuition is a right-brain activity, and, as such, it does not respond well to our timetables.  We may need to present a question to the Holy Spirit, and then go about our day in full confidence that the answer will come when the matter has retreated from the forefront of our minds.  Present a problem or question, and then let go.  Trust the Holy Spirit to make His will known to us.  He will not fail.

In my twenties I heard a very dynamic preacher of the gospel speak on the topic of guidance.

He stressed, “I have known people at the end of their lives who said, ‘I knew that God was telling me to do that.  But I didn’t do it, and I regret it.'”

He went on, vehemently, “I have never known anyone to say, at the end of their lives,  ‘I knew that God was trying to get me to do that, and I did it, and I regret it.'”

Jesus may be commenting on the same guidance when he says the following in the Manual, in a passage that is comforting in the extreme:

“Do not, then, think that following the Holy Spirit’s guidance is necessary merely because of your own inadequacies.  It is the way out of hell for you.  (M70)”

By this statement, I think that ACIM is telling us that we make our own hells on earth.  Listening to the Holy Spirit with increasing frequency shows us the way out of our self-made hells.  I believe that in fact there is no limit to how the Holy Spirit speaks to us,  for our God is not a limited God in any way.  He will find a way to get through to us.  He asks only that we try to discern.  If we miss the first glimmering of guidance, God will bring the same message to us in yet other ways until we get the message.    Remain flexible.  Learn to turn on a dime.  Following the Holy Spirit in this way is joyous.  It is the enlightened way to live, even before we know the Awakening that the Course holds out to us.  As A Course in Miracles makes clear, there can be no better way to live, in the time of the Holy Spirit,  than in following the guidance of Universal Inspiration.

I once read, “Why beseech heaven for a miracle one would not recognize at high noon?”  After actively seeking guidance, we are perhaps in the right frame of mind, for the first time, to recognize miracles when they occur.

A COURSE OF LOVE: REVIEW II

Scribed by Mari Perron.  To order, visit <http://acourseoflove.com&gt;.

This review covers all three volumes in the three-volume series:  (1)  A Course of Love; the Complete Course; (2) The Treatises of A Course of Love; and (3) The Dialogues:  Coming to Voice.

Review by Celia Hales.  Revised with new title.  Previously published in Miracles magazine (publisher Jon Mundy).  

Can you imagine another Course in Miracles, again this time in three books (but this time with a definite sequence for reading)?  Suspend judgment for a moment and imagine that Jesus has unfinished busineess with us.  I personally believe that this is what we have in the A Course of Love series.  Certainly individuals other than Mari Perron have believed themselves to be channeling Jesus in the years since ACIM.  It would be inadvisable for me to take a stand on any of these books; this is a subject fully beyond my knowledge.  Yet as well, it would not be useful to debate the authenticity of the A Course of Love (ACOL) series without introducing you to this remarkable gift.  That you learn of this series and make your own choice, to read or not to read, is my goal in this review.  Maybe you will find that this series has been out there waiting for you.

The series starts simply but profoundly with an offering called A Course of Love.  (This first book in the series was reviewed by this reviewer and is posted on this blog under the title, “A Course of Love:  Review I.)  The words in this first volume are comforting and reassuring.  This is the basic book in the series, the beginning, meant to appeal to the heart.  (Later on, we find that Jesus links the heart to the mind with a plea toward “wholeheartedness.”)  If read too quickly (which can be done, unlike ACIM, much of which is poetry, blank verse) the first book may not resonate deeply.  My view of this is that, as Jesus told Mari, ACIM students are “ready” for ACOL.  We will seem almost to “know this already.”

The second and third books in the ACOL series will put to rest any doubts about whether or not we ACIM students really need to learn (and “unlearn”) more.  (These also rested my questions about Jesus as the one channeling the material to Mari.)  The Treatises are dense and packed with meaning; The Dialogues, the same.  I found that I needed to read them very slowly and thoughtfully.  In these last two books Jesus surprisingly resigns as our teacher, and even suggests that learning through the Holy Spirit has come to an end because this is the time of the “second coming of Christ.”  The last book, The Dialogues, builds to a crescendo in its final pages that left me weeping as I read.  We may be more reading for Awakening (ACIM‘s term) then we realize.  What joy!

The Treatises

This set of four short books has a definite progression in the order given; one builds upon the previous one and on to the next.  They are intended to give us further guidance for living in “wholeheartedness,” even as we are recognized as thinking beings who cannot live by feeling alone.  There is even a recognized need for a break in “thinking” (and therefore in reading, I would wonder) between the first book in the series (ACOL) and the second one (The Treatises).  (There is, however no recognized need for a break between the second and third books (The Treatises and The Dialogues).)

We are meant to live in sustained Christ-consciousness, though this in no way makes us unique nor more “special” than anyone else.  Everyone is chosen (an ACIM declaration also).  We are, in these treatises, both “learning” and “unlearning” so that we can move beyond to observation and the state of unity in holy relationships (never special) one to the other.  The conclusion of the fourth (and last) treatise is the “Treatise on the New.”
(Reviewer’s note:  Reflected upon in this blog; see “about,” and then search “archives” for the dates posted).  At the conclusion of the “New,” we are said to be in the resurrection, the time of the second coming of Christ.

In sum, “This course has led you through resigning as your own teacher, to becoming a true student, and to now leading you beyond the time of being a student to the realization of your accomplishment.  (10.1)”  We will now, through vision and direct revelation, be in a time of glorious surprises for which we do not need to (nor can we) prepare or plan.  We are transforming the personal self to the Self, or Christ-consciousness.  Jesus calls for us to have a personal relationship to him, but, surprisingly (as noted), he resigns as our teacher.  He says, “I do not have the answers that would continue to make of me a teacher and you a student.  The answers to the elevation of the personal self and the living of Christ-consciousness in form are yet to be revealed and shared. (12.32)”  He concludes the final treatise with the injunction, “Let us begin.”

The Dialogues

This third book in the series is a joining of Christ to each of us.  Jesus moves into a role no longer as teacher, but as a companion.  He directs us (before moving away from his traditional role as teacher) to claim the Self that we are; this involves an elevation of the personal self through complete acceptance of what is, by maintaining and sustaining our being (the Christ-consciousness).  Jesus emphasizes that this state cannot be “learned,” but can come into being only by our natural state of knowing brought on by wholehearted desire.

The Dialogues conclude (in over half the book) with “Forty Days and Forty Nights.” (Reviewer’s note:  Reflected upon in this blog; the title of each posting begins with Day x; see “all posts” in the sidebar).  In these Forty Days and Forty Nights, we are meant to commune on the “mountain top,” yet remain in our daily lives, balancing the two–elevation and the personal self–until the self of form is elevated and sustained in that elevation.  Jesus asks for our commitment as early as the Fourth Day; he indicates that we can make the journey to the mountain top many times, if desired, “but this is not what I call you to.  (Page 114)”  He asks us to live through “unity and relationship” (words that are frequently repeated throughout The Dialogues).

Jesus concludes with these moving words:  “You will realize that you know what to do.  Expect heaven on earth, you were told.  This is what it is.  There will be no doubt, no indecision.  Your path will be so clear to you it will be as if it is the only path in the world and you will wonder why you didn’t see it all along.  Expect this.  And it will be.  (Pages 248 – 249)”

Summing Up

I hope that the time has come for the A Course of Love series to find a wider readership.  As mentioned, Jesus tells us in the ACOL series that the time of learning is over.  Perhaps perpetual students of ACIM need something more to move them to greater action in the world.  May the ACOL series speak–loudly and powerfully–to your heart and mind–as Jesus says, “wholeheartedly.”  Let us claim the heritage that is ours, no longer fearful that we are acting out of ego.  I believe that Jesus saw our weakened egos (a success of ACIM), but he needs us to truly leave our fears behind and claim our power.

Then the more widespread Awakening of our world surely might begin.

GAVIN VEERE RE ACIM; A Review of Chapter 1 of Gavin Veere’s “Commentary on A Course in Miracles”

by Celia Hales

For information on ordering Gavin’s latest book, visit his website at the following address: http://gavinveere.com/

This volume, entitled Commentary on A Course in Miracles, is Chapter 1 of a projected multi-volume series.  In this chapter, Gavin takes a look at the 50 miracle principles which begin A Course in Miracles.  It is not a simple look, but a well-designed commentary that draws parallels from the entire three-volume ACIM.

Gavin takes us through the 50 principles, one-by-one, but as he progresses, he draws upon past comments to form a well-established sequence of ideas.  By choosing the 50 principles of miracles, and then developing ideas from the other parts of ACIM, he has done us a great service.  Those 50 principles are among the most difficult parts for a new student, because he/she does not have the understanding that the remaining pages of A Course in Miracles will give.

This introductory chapter for Gavin’s commentary also introduces the entire ACIM.  For veteran students/teachers, it serves as a review that capsules a large number of the most important passages to follow.

Gavin has been sharing parts of his new book on his web site, and I encourage interested individuals to visit the address given above.  He is a most approachable person, with accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and he is very, very enthusiastic about A Course in Miracles.  And his enthusiasm is catching!

Chapter 1 of Commentary on A Course in Miracles is a fitting beginning to a most ambitious project that will have far-reaching effects, I believe, on the understanding that students/teachers have of A Course in Miracles.

Read and enjoy!

A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION TO EXCESS WEIGHT: A Review of Marianne Williamson’s “A Course in Weight Loss”

Reviewed by Celia Hales.  Published in September/October 2011 issue of Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).  To order, visit Marianne’s web site at http://www.marianne.com and click on “Books and Audio.”  Also available in bookstores internationally.

Title:  A Course in Weight Loss
Subtitle:  21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever
Author:  Marianne Williamson
Publisher:  Hay House, Inc.

Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss is a magnificent contribution to the wrenching problem of being overweight in our society.  I see this book primarily as a loving instigator of a miraculous solution for the many who suffer from excessive eating and/or food addiction.  Weight Loss is affectionately dedicated to Oprah (Winfrey), who inspired it as a personal friend of Marianne’s and someone who herself has often spoken of problems with weight.  Marianne writes in the dedication of the book to Oprah, “To any reader who might feel that this book is a gift, please know that it was a gift from her.”

It is Marianne who writes of the solution, though, and her ideas are phenomenal.  We will appreciate that they are frequently, though far from exclusively, based on A Course in Miracles.  There is a solution to the never-ending cycle of overeating and dieting, Marianne says, and it is a spiritual solution.  She notes that if anything other than a spiritual solution had worked, those with a weight problem would be cured already.  She goes on to say that the problem originates in the mind, and this is what she calls the “fear-mind.”  (Here we see Marianne’s indebtedness to A Course in Miracles, though she uses a slightly different term.)  We need to turn to Divine Mind (again, a variation on terms from ACIM) for healing.  Nothing less than a full surrender to Love, or God, will solve the problem.

But we pray for a miracle, and Marianne herself has known one, and so she knows whereof she speaks.  Years ago she had a food problem, in that she would eat excessively and then starve herself to regain her slender frame.  Once she began working intensively with A Course in Miracles, and healed some of the neurosis that was causing her problems, she looked down at her body one day, and surprisingly, noticed that it was slim–and had become so without her starving herself.  She had not asked for a miracle, because she had not recognized that this was an area which she should surrender.  But God answered her.  And she says that He can do the same for any of us.  Indeed, none will know a permanent solution to weight loss until one does experience that miracle that only God can give.

We do prepare ourselves for a miracle, though, and Marianne’s book details a comprehensive program for a way to view ourselves differently, and thus invite the miracle for which we ask.  She includes exercises (especially writing letters to and from one’s “not-thin” and thin selves); rituals  (such as a ceremonial oil treatment for the body that will promote a love, rather than hate, for one’s body, and the buying of a single piece of fruit, a healthy food choice); ceremonies (in which we invite friends–an “inspirer” and a “permitter”–to help us along the journey); new cues in the environment (such as a home altar and a special table setting that, along with the other items that are meaningful to our journey toward weight loss, go on the altar, until these items are ready for use).

Marianne never tells us how rapidly to go through the 21 lessons.  Perhaps she realizes that the one driven to find a solution will read through the whole very quickly.  But then those with a weight problem will return to study the solution that she recommends.

She explains repeatedly that the mind is what must be healed, before the body will respond.  We are trying to find solutions to our distress in food, and food is not a good place to go.  The self-loathing of the compulsive overeater is described throughout this book; it is the body to which these emotions are attached, but the body is not the real culprit.  The body is only the place where these unprocessed emotions have been played out.  These unprocessed emotions are from a past that has had its share of pain, whether in traumatic events (such as rape or sexual abuse), or the word of our culture that the blossoming body of the adolescent girl is no longer appreciated by some with whom the girl has been most closely associated, such as her father (who is not accustomed to dealing with his little girl as a woman).  We should not underestimate the power of these emotions in dealing with weight gain.  We “hide out” in a big body to escape the pain of living in a thin one; we are afraid of being thin.  Marianne says that the fear of being thin is actually what keeps the compulsive overeating in place.

She stresses the importance of healthy food choices, recognizing that many with a food problem, paradoxically, do not appreciate food enough, but too little.  We are eating for comfort, to quiet the demons inside, but we are not truly tasting what we eat.  She counsels easing into healthy choices, giving an example of her love affair with grapes, which satisfied her longing for sugar gradually, as she also sometimes ate cake.  She emphasizes, in a comforting way and the way of one who knows whereof she speaks, that our best days with food are ahead of, not behind us.

A Course in Weight Loss is carefully written.  One can tell that much time and energy went into its compilation.  This is not an intuitive book; this is one that has been reasoned out for the maximal effect upon its desperate readers.  And those with a weight problem will not come away disappointed.  There are many who read everything that Marianne writes.  She is, in fact, often described as the one whose name is most recognized as a student/teacher of A Course in Miracles.  Marianne, once again, has come through in this book with an illuminating contribution to her canon and to her large audience of returning readers.

The book is both inspired and inspiring.  Weight Loss is first recommended to those with weight issues, but is also recommended to others who love Marianne and/or want to read some very practical applications of A Course in Miracles to the problems in our lives (regardless of how much we might weigh).  My secondary recommendation to everyone is not the intent of Marianne, though.  Her words of wisdom never leave the central thrust of helping those who have obsessive, compulsive eating habits.  In reading between the lines, though, we find gems that can help us all.

We can be sure that A Course in Weight Loss will be, and, indeed, has already been,  received enthusiastically and gratefully by individuals in our society with both weight issues and other urgent needs.

VISUALIZE; a Review of Shakti Gawain’s “Creative Visualization”

by Celia Hales

Gawain, Shakti.  Creative Visualization; Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Life.  ISBN 1-57731-229-5.  Available on the Internet and in bookstores internationally.  Originally published by Whatever Publishing, 1979.

This is a contribution that cannot be underestimated.  An early New Age book, Creative Visualization has remained in print and well-received for decades.  I personally knew most of it by heart at one point in my life, so taken with it I had become.  Its basic message is the same as another New Age author, Jane Roberts, who channeled an entity named Seth, proclaiming, “You create your own reality.”  If I had to sum up what Creative Visualization  says, that would be it.

Shakti tells us exactly how to “create your own reality.”  A thin book (my early copy has 127 pages), there are numerous short chapters, making skimming to find your desired passages an easy task.  She is heavy on affirmations as a way to create one’s own reality, and she gives many examples of positive, life-affirming affirmations that, if said silently, aloud, or written, will presumably have the power to do all of those wonderful things that she promises.  She does not overlook the power of negativity to negate any desired good, and she offer hints of what to do to find one’s own blocks to creating the reality that we desire.  Paper and pencil are not far behind for Shakti.  As much as she champions imagining, she also asks us to do the work of changing our reality by writing about what we want and why, as well as what we don’t want, and why we keep getting it.

There are five parts to this masterpiece:  (1) basics of creative visualization; (2) using creative visualization; (3) meditations and affirmations; (4) special techniques; and (5) living creatively.

In the beginning, Shakti emphasizes the importance of relaxation to effective visualization.  Once relaxed, she invites us to encourage the images to flow; if we have trouble doing so, though, she encourages us by saying that “seeing” is not absolutely necessary to the process.  Just thinking about the desired goal, quality, or object is enough.  She notes that many of us will be ambivalent about consciously creating for ourselves that which is good when so many in our world are suffering.  She affirms that we would not do harm to others by wishing for the good for ourselves; we will reach out to our brothers and sisters as well.  She calls this “outflowing,” and it is essential to effective creative visualization.

She provides a good number of exercises in the middle portion of the book.  These will help tremendously if one does them rather than simply reads about them.  My favorite is the “pink bubble technique,” in which we are encouraged to place our goal in a visualized pink bubble (pink being the color of the heart), and then imagine it floating away into the universe above, waiting to manifest on earth.  Never does Shakti recommend straining, or “efforting,” to reach a goal.  This exertion does actually hinder the manifestation, she affirms.  If we feel too much efforting, we are not ready, or the goal is not right, and we are counseled to hold off and to reconsider.

The paper-and-pencil tasks are found in the fourth part on “special techniques.”  My favorite here is the treasure map, which actually makes of our attempts a game.  We draw what we desire, making it as personal as possible, and placing an image of ourselves on the map itself.  Always, though, we say a mantra that we image this goal for the good of everyone concerned, that this or something better will manifest.

An important chapter is the short conclusion of the book, in which she says that her life is her greatest art.  We are trying to craft a life, not trying to just make a series of achievements to prove anything to anybody.  We are creating our reality.

A Course in Miracles had just been published (1975) when Creative Visualization first appeared..  There is no indication that the former influenced the latter.  But  both are part of the oft-quoted perennial philosophy that Aldous Huxley described so well in his book by the same title.

Shakti has done us a glorious service by bringing us this book, which she attributes to her inner guide.   While she never says that the book was channeled, she does make the “guide” comment.  It seems obvious that Shakti’s attunement with the universe helped to write this book.  Recommended without reservation, as so many others have said as well.

AN UNSEEN KISS

by Celia Hales

I don’t know if this experience is a miracle.  Sometimes it seems like one.  But maybe it is a departed one reaching back to the world she left behind.  That, in itself, would be a kind of miracle–one that science doesn’t understand as yet.

For many years,  I have felt, from time to time, the sensation of someone kissing the crown of my head.  This sensation always gives me a warm feeling, a feeling of being protected from all harm.  As I  look out on my day, my environment–especially when I am outside–suddenly seem clearer than before.  The sun seems brighter, or, if it is raining, I feel sudden gratitude for the moisture hitting the earth.  I feel touched by an angel.

I have a now-departed family friend named Mattie.  She helped raise me.  She had what she called my “sweet spot”–the crown of my head–where she always kissed me.  She said that this spot belonged to her.

“Come here, Child,” she would say, as I was running out the back door to go play with my little friends.

She would plant a firm kiss on the top of my head.

“That sweet spot belongs to me,” she would say, and then she would laugh happily.

I think, to my credit, that I nearly always, as a child, made her happy.  We shared lots of love between us.

Mattie has been beyond the veil of death for more than 20 years.  I wish I could say with certainty that these sensations on the crown of my head began after she died.  But I don’t know for sure.  Certainly the brushes against my hair began a very long time ago.

Has Mattie found a way to bless me from heaven?  Perhaps so.  Certainly we loved each other deeply, and love, I believe, always survives death.

Thank you, Mattie.  I’m going to believe that it is you.

ACIM IN ESSENCE: A Review of Jon Mundy’s “Living A Course in Miracles”

by Celia Hales.  Posted here with new title.  Reprinted from Miracles Magazine (publisher Jon Mundy).  Book is available on the Internet and bookstores nationwide.

Title: Living A Course in Miracles
Subtitle:  An Essential Guide to the Classic Text
Author: Jon Mundy
Publisher: Sterling Publishing

Jon Mundy begins his monumental task of writing Living A Course in Miracles by saying, “A Course in Miracles is the wisest, sanest, deepest book I know (p. 3).”  This first sentence in Jon’s book is one with which virtually any long-time student/teacher of ACIM would agree.  Jon concludes this first chapter (referring to studying ACIM intensively): “We are going for nothing less than enlightenment (p. 11).”

In Living A Course in Miracles, Jon Mundy, an esteemed ACIM writer and lecturer, does his most profound writing to date.  Living is an  essential read for any serious student/teacher of A Course in Miracles.

Organization of the Book

Living A Course in Miracles is a 259-page work in three parts:  (1) basic terms and concepts (a necessary prelude to what will follow); (2) the metaphysics of miracles (for those who want theory); and, finally, the most lengthy part, (3) living A Course in Miracles, the practical application.  Jon waits until the third chapter of the first part to truly introduce A Course in Miracles–an unusual feature, but one that works.  The second part tackles some of the difficult metaphysics set forth in the Text, and, characteristically,  Jon makes these difficult concepts much easier to understand.  The third part echoes ACIM‘s emphasis upon the practical, for we are told within the pages of ACIM that it is with the practical that we are most concerned.

Jon has his own narrative, which forms the backdrop for numerous quotations from A Course in Miracles and other readings.  Some of the very best passages from the Course are chosen.  Most are from the Text, with some from the Workbook for Students, and a few from the Manual for Teachers.

Jon’s commentary is voluminous, but in easy-to-understand prose with a logical progression.  His quotations, which are necessary to keep our minds on ACIM,  flow seamlessly throughout the narrative.  Nothing jars.  And neither does it simply seem a flow of quotations from ACIM and other sources.  The narrative has its own logic, well-planned and executed.  Jon is emphasizing, without saying so, that the Course is the latest manifestation of the perennial philosophy that Aldous Huxley wrote about so eloquently.  Jon too has eloquent writing, eloquent writing that is obviously heartfelt.   Living is a pleasure to read and an inspiration as well.

In addition to ACIM, Jon quotes many spiritual writers and other renowned figures in history, whether they were known as religious figures or not.   Jon is an expert in the history of mystical literature, and this expertise shows itself conclusively in Living.  In addition, Jon tells with his own lighthearted manner a number of personal anecdotes that illustrate his emphasized points from ACIM.  The tone of the book throughout is scholarly but not overly serious.  It has its own vibrancy, because we see some of Jon’s personality shine through, a fact that was probably unintended.   Jon keeps the light touch, a necessary prerequisite to having a readable book.

The Audience

As mentioned earlier, this work is an essential read for students/teachers of A Course in Miracles–whether one is new to the three volumes or is a long-time reader.  The interpretations are all true to the spirit of ACIM.   I have studied ACIM intensively for 30 years, and I found little in Jon’s interpretations with which to disagree.  Jon does not bring his own agenda to his writing.  He stays close to his chosen quotations, and so the reader may be reassured that he/she will not be misled by what Jon has written.

If I had to choose, I would say that Living is best intended for the new student, though there are interpretations of passages from ACIM that even the long-time student/teacher may have found difficult.  In his own inimical way, Jon makes the difficult understandable.  The quotations (set off in italics) are a gift in themselves; being among the finest material in ACIM, a reader would do well, once the Jon’s work has been read and his interpretations taken to heart, to turn through the pages just reviewing the selected passages from A Course in Miracles.

What Living A Course in Miracles Says

At its most basic, Living is a summation of ACIM.  But to say that is to miss a lot.  There is so much more weaved into the narrative by Jon.  He even includes an interesting take on difficult terms in ACIM in which he makes the terms come alive.  And he includes his own “lists” of interpretations, for those who want an overview without going back to ACIM itself.  Living is a fascinating read, never dull, always holding one’s attention and moving one forward to the next page and the next.

To give a flavor of what Living is like, I am going to quote from Jon on three puzzling concepts in the Course, all discussed in the first part of Living.  Jon’s history with the Course makes sure that he is the right person to make these assertions, and they illustrate what we find throughout the work.

Jon has picturesque writing, as exemplified in this quotation.  Here he characterizes the tiny, mad idea which started our illusions and our apparent separation from God (though not real, we perceive this separation as real):

“Like a mirror which is dropped and shatters, a kind of fractal splintering off of consciousness occurs, breaking repeatedly into trillions upon trillions of individual pieces of non-reality (pp. 48-49).”

What an inspired way to say this!

A common misconception about the Course is the following, which Jon explains brilliantly:

“Attack cannot occur without judgment; and ‘anger is never justified’ (T-30.VI.1:1).  The word is never, not sometimes.  The ego would love it if the Course said that anger was sometimes justified.  Then we could have debates about the times it was and the time it is not justified.  This does not mean we should never get angry; it just mean I have slipped into fear, something has gone wrong with my thinking, and I need another way to look at things (p. 53).”

Jon also succinctly explains a frequent problem of why we are innocent and never have “sinned”:

“If it really was possible to be separated from God, then sin would be real. It is precisely because sin is an illusion that it is not real.  It is actually impossible to be separated from God.  We just think that we can be and that gives birth to the ‘dream of sin’ (W-193-5:4).  Sin is not to be confused with error.  Error or mistaken perception calls for correction (p. 64).”

These are just three of the examples of outstanding interpretation by Jon.  The book is filled with such gems.  I chose these three because they occur early in Jon’s work (and will welt your appetite for more), and they are not easily found in explanation within the pages of the Course.  Jon has aptly synthesized the Course after years of continual study and teaching.

Jon’s Qualifications

We would need someone, like Jon Mundy, Ph.D., who has been “in” on the Course from the beginning,  to write such a cogent analysis.  He was introduced to the Course shortly after its scribing, and the scribe Helen Schucman was a kind of “mother figure” for Jon.  He has, through the years, been close to the well-known  scholar Kenneth Wapnick, who is an early principal with continuous lifetime contributions to ACIM.  Jon has also welcomed others students/teachers of ACIM over the years.  He is the publisher of Miracles, a magazine that is known for its inclusiveness.

Jon has not had an easy life, and this struggle has honed him and made him ready as one who has derived great benefit from ACIM in the course of the struggle.  He has had a number of near-death experiences.  He has “crashed and burned” (his phrase) several times, including being forced from the United Methodist Church because he was preaching A Course in Miracles.  Jon has written about this experience of forced resignation repeatedly, leading one to realize that this was a pivotal point in his life.

Jon lectures on A Course in Miracles internationally, and part of his lecture is a lighthearted persona that makes humorous remarks.  This lighthearted vein finds its way into this work, as we have noted, and Living is the better for it.

CONCLUDING

Living A Course in Miracles concludes with a favorite quotation of students/teachers of A Course in Miracles:

“Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God. (T-189.7: 5)”

In the final analysis, after finishing Living, we will want to do the same.  But we will have been made richer by our dipping into this absolutely extraordinary work.  An astounding contribution, recommended enthusiastically.

MARIANNE’S GRACE; A Review of Marianne Williamson’s “Everyday Grace”

Review by Celia Hales.  Revised with new title and reprinted from Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).

Williamson, Marianne.  Everyday Grace; Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, and Making Miracles.  Riverside Books, 2002.  ISBN 1-57322-230-5.  Available from <http://www.marianne.com&gt;.

There is a passage in A Course in Miracles that spotlights the way of the seeker and the mystic in this world, a way of being in the world but not of it.  The passage reads, mysteriously,

There is a way of living in this world that is not here. . .you smile more frequently.  Your forehead. . .serene, your eyes. . .quiet.  And the ones who walk the world as you do recognize their own. (W-p1.155.1:1-4).

Marianne’s gift to us in this book first spells out her powerful view of the theory behind this way of living:  miracles happen; we are helped (Marianne says by angels); judgment blocks the way; love is the best means to get to a worthy end; we need to be in silence rather than do all the time.  She then moves on in the bulk of the book to a very practical application of her truisms:  She takes us through a mythical, hour by hour, day of practical effects, and she always follows through on the hard questions (never leaving us to wonder, what did she mean by that?).  Marianne concludes her manual of graceful living by heartfelt meditations on the value of meaningful ritual in our lives, really keeping the Sabbath, the real observation of holidays, a way through thorny relationship problems to the gem of a holy relationship, and, finally, the world as our community, the place for our spiritual activism.

How close does Marianne adhere to A Course in Miracles?  Very close indeed.  True, she uses the word “magic” to connote a sense of wonder (unlike ACIM), and she frankly appropriates the term “mystical” to the way of living in this world that she proposes (also something ACIM doesn’t do).  But I am reminded always in Marianne’s writing of the passage in A Course in Miracles:

There is a course for every teacher of God.  The form of the course varies greatly.  So do the particular teaching aids involved.  But the content of the course never varies. (M-1.3:1-4)

In Everyday Grace, published in 2002, Marianne returns to her roots as a student and teacher of A Course in Miracles more than any of her books to that point since her first, A Return to Love.  In content and tone (always prayerful, ever gentle), Everyday Grace is more akin to Illuminata than any other.  (She is appropriately billed  as the author of Illuminata on the book jacket.)

Marianne is now a mature woman, a “wise woman,” if you will.  She expresses a sincere humility with still a willingness to learn, but it is clear that she has now walked far along the mystic’s path.  She has seen darkness, but she has also seen some light, and it is her gift to us that she herein does not put her light under a bushel, but claims the power she now has through the understanding her pathway has thus far given her.  It is clear that Marianne’s Everyday Grace comes from the heart, a heart honed by prayer, meditation, A Course in Miracles, and the common bonds and wisdom of spirituality’s gentle messages.

A gem of a book–not to be missed!

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.