Tag Archives: Hugh Prather

God’s Answer

There is an old story, retold by Hugh Prather, in which a man was allowed to see his life at his death, symbolized as steps along a sandy shore. He noticed two sets of footprints during much of the walk, but from time to time noticed only one set, and it occurred to him that these were his most trying times. Why, he asked God, did you desert me when times were tough? God responded, “Yes, it is true that I walked beside you throughout life, holding your hand. But when there was only one set of footprints, that was when I was carrying you.”

Help from Beyond This World

1 – Teachers of Teachers

“There are those who have reached God directly, retaining no trace of worldly limits and remembering their own Identity perfectly. These might be called the Teachers of teachers because, although they are no longer visible, their image can yet be called upon. (M64)”

2 – Not Long Stay on the Earth

This passage proclaims that when we have reached God directly, we will not long stay on this earth. We will no longer be seen on earth, but our “image” can be called upon. We are then “Teachers of teachers.”

3 – Lay Down the Body?

Elsewhere Jesus says that very few of us willingly lay down the body simply to be of help to others in a greater way. So most of us will not attain this degree of salvation while in this world.

4 – Help

We do have help from beyond the earth. We can call upon this help, and we will receive assistance. No greater bounty can be ours, than to know that we are never alone, that God and His Teachers care for us always.

5 – Appearances

“And they will appear when and where it is helpful for them to do so. To those to whom such appearances would be frightening, they give their ideas. (M64)”

6 – Beyond Your Thinking

Have you ever felt that you got ideas that were actually beyond your scope, your thinking? Of course, and we often saw this as God speaking to us—which it may have been.

7 – From Whom Are We Hearing?

But we must also recognize that we may be hearing from those whom Jesus called “Teachers of teachers” in regard to A Course in Miracles. He seems to indicate that these are noble individuals who have gone over, made the transition to life after death, and then reached backwards to help us. He doesn’t say that these individuals are angels, but human beings, we might believe, who have let all barriers come down.

8 – Frightened?

We might be frightened if we had a visitation. Some in the Course community have claimed visitations, but their assertions were widely disbelieved, and who is to know for sure? Many have been visited by a departed loved one, shortly after death. This has become a common practice.

9 – Whom Do We Know?

Do we know these Teachers of teachers? Sometimes, perhaps, but perhaps more often not.

10 – Hugh Prather

Jerry Jampolsky and Gayle Prather have both been visited by Hugh Prather in the hours and days following his fatal heart attack. The Holy Encounter, a publication by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff, so reported. And the words from Hugh were profoundly comforting. Toward Jerry, Hugh affirmed that we live in an illusion, just like ACIM says. Toward his wife Gayle, he spoke up about the little daily matters of living—glad that he didn’t have to clean the house, encouraging her to hold their cat longer.

11 – Communication from the Other Side

These reports do not have to be believed, but our lives are immeasurably enriched if we can crack the doubt a bit and entertain the possibility that communication from the Other Side is very evident, very possible.

12 – Off the Deep End?

Of course, we don’t want to go off the deep end. Test out these unembodied words that come to you. If they recommend anything harmful, then we are not ready. Don’t get carried away.

13 – Not in Vain

“No one can call on them in vain. Nor is there anyone of whom they are unaware. All needs are known to them, and all mistakes are recognized and overlooked by them. (M64)”

14 – Welcome

This reassurance, that no one can call on Teachers of teachers in vain, is a welcome statement. We have many helpers from the Other Side. We here on earth have long believed ourselves isolated, and that belief has been very damaging to our psyche.

15 – Help

We are not alone. We live in a very peopled universe. And when we open our minds to the possibility of help, that help comes immediately, if we are calm enough to recognize what is happening.

16 – Ask for Help

“The time will come when this is understood. And meanwhile, they give all their gifts to the teachers of God who look to them for help, asking all things in their Name and in no other. (M64)”

17 – Understood

“The time will come when this is understood.” Yes! We are rapidly coming to that time now.

18 – Good

And good it is for our culture.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to understand the concept of “Teachers of teachers.” May I reach for their help often once I comprehend whom I am asking.

Thank you for providing all this help to me in this uncertain world. May I be quick to take advantage of this help as I go about my day today.

Amen.

One Thought that Should Be Remembered: Thought of Pure Joy; a Thought of Peace, a Thought of Limitless Release, Limitless because All Things Are Freed within It.

1 – My Favorite Passage

“There is one thought in particular that should be remembered throughout the day. It is a thought of pure joy; a thought of peace, a thought of limitless release, limitless because all things are freed within it. (M41)”

2 – On the Right Direction

This is far and away my favorite passage from A Course in Miracles. It sets my day on the right direction, regardless of what attack and anger thoughts or deeds have intervened. The words “limitless release” and “pure joy” are blessings beyond my description.

3 – Beautiful Passage

This is one of the most beautiful passages in all of the Course: “pure joy” and “limitless release.” How much we have to be thankful for!

4 – A Good Day

When we remember these words throughout the day, we indeed do have a good day. They are the epitome of peace and happiness.

5 – Our Hearts

The messages these words convey should be etched in our hearts. We can indeed have pure joy, regardless of what surrounds us, because we know that this world is an illusion. This does not give us the right to do just anything, but it does give some distance to the wrongs that we note. We can also know limitless release, because we are free in God and the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what transpires on the outside of ourselves, on the inside we can be free and at peace.

6 – Afraid of Nothing

“How foolish to be afraid of nothing! Nothing at all! Your defenses will not work, but you are not in danger. You have no need of them. Recognize this, and they will disappear. And only then will you accept your real protection. (M41)”

7 – Defenses

We bring up defenses when we feel threatened, and we often feel threatened, not because of anything external to ourselves, but something internal: stress. We are all prone to stress in our busy world. We do want we can to protect ourselves, but A Course in Miracles assures us that our defenses will not work, but we have no need of defenses. We are safe, and we have always been safe. There is no real need for fear—but try telling us this when we are caught in the throes of being afraid.

8 – Our Real Protection

Our real protection seems to be our propensity to follow guidance of the Holy Spirit (though this is not spelled out at this juncture in ACIM). Our real protection is Someone Whom we can accept whenever we get ourselves out of the way sufficiently to accept help.

9 – Help

We need help. Why do we reject what could save us from despair? Ah, that is the question, for we struggle so often in this world, forgetting our lofty beliefs and forgetting how very easy the path becomes when we welcome our brother/sister with an open and serene heart.

10 – Our Way Home

A Course in Miracles puts forth our love for our brother/sister as our way home. This is the way that ACIM is saving us time; we don’t have to devote long hours to contemplation, though meditative moments seem to be encouraged in the Workbook, particularly at the conclusion of this part of ACIM. We live a holy relationship, a relationship saved from specialness, and in the living out, day by day, we are saved from ourselves. We know peace, for when we recognize that our brother/sister’s attack and anger are distress that rests on anger, we can forgive. And we know that because we live an illusion, nothing bad is actually happening to us as we live side by side with others, even others who attack and show anger.

11 – The Best that One Can

Everyone does the best that he or she can at any given moment, given his or her level of understanding. If we could just incorporate this truth in our everyday life, our lives would flow so much more smoothly.

12 – Significant Others

Nor do our significant others have to accept our pathway to allow us to live peacefully with them. We will find, without our trying to change them, that when we accept them just as they are, with no attempts to change, that a change will miraculously happen. Accepting as one really is, is a powerful practice. It is the primary thrust of Hugh and Gayle Prather’s counseling practice for troubled couples. Just accept the significant other as he/she is. Just that.

13 – Ann Landers

Only if there is danger to one’s person do we need to separate. It is sometimes wise to consider Ann Landers, the advice columnist. She asked us to consider, “Am I better off with or without him/her?” when we are in a troubled relationship. Usually we are better off with the individual. Shared history makes for a powerful bond. In this world it is so easy to close our hearts, but that is not the way of love.

14 – Jesus

Remember that Jesus took the long view in the New Testament. We don’t have to believe in a fundamental sense what he said to gain value from his denunciation of divorce. He was onto something.

15 – Marriage

I think it not a far stretch to see that Jesus’s characterization of our special relationships turned holy is a continuation of his primacy of marriage in the New Testament. In A Course in Miracles, we are encouraged to see our brother/sister as innocent; we are in fact told that this is the only way to forgive, totally, completely.

16 – Forgive-to-Destroy

We do not “forgive to destroy” (as A Song of Prayer describes), in that we continue to remember the misthought or the misdeed, remembering and “forgiving” because we are “better” than the other. This is the only forgiveness that this world can give. But we are outside this world when we truly forgive because we see the innocence in our brother/sister. We know that they are not attacking us out of perversion, but simply because, at the time, that is the best that they can do.

17 – Struggling Brothers/Sisters

Our hearts can go out to a struggling brother or sister. So many of those we encounter are struggling. It behooves us to practice our faith. To know that this too shall pass.

18 – To Be Saved

And to recognize that we are saved in our holy relationships, in our forgiveness of our significant others.

Dear Father/Mother,

May today I know the pure joy, peace, and limitless release that Jesus promises. May I know what these words really mean, and may I act on them throughout the day.

Thank you for being there for me always. I do not always sense your presence, and when I realize that I have drifted apart from You, may I get quiet on the inside and remember You are with me.

Amen.

Nothing but Sparkles Now which Seemed So Dull and Lifeless Before. And Above All, All Things Are Welcoming.

“Open-mindedness comes with lack of judgment. As judgment shuts the mind against God’s Teacher, so open-mindedness invites Him to come in. (M16)”

Open-mindedness is said to be the last of the traits which a teacher of God takes unto himself/herself. I wonder about that, whether it is true for all people. I have personally found other traits to be harder to acquire. Open-mindedness makes a smooth pathway in the walk ahead. When I am mellow, open-mindedness seems an easy way to go. When I am stressed, open-mindedness seems impossible, for I lapse into judgment.

1 – Non-Judgmental

Open-mindedness suggests a non-judgmental stance, and certainly judgment is a problem for many of us, perhaps most of us on the spiritual pathway. Hugh Prather says as much, in a little book entitled, The Little Book of Letting Go. He indicates that those on a spiritual pathway are perhaps more insufferable than those who have never given much thought to spirituality.

2 – Personal Experience

This attitude, expressed by Hugh, is a stern warning. I have thought back over some of the religious individuals whom I have known, and, like Hugh says, I have identified three deeply religious men (two of whom are ministers) who have particularly big egos. They are difficult to be around, because judgment is also a big part of their emotional makeup.

3 – Sanctimoniousness

We really don’t want to be like this. Sometimes I think that I would rather be around people who are not particularly religious, because they are more comfortable people with whom to associate. There is none of the sanctimoniousness that religious people sometimes exude.

4 – Judgments

These, in themselves, are judgments. I wonder how much others might agree with these thoughts. I myself struggle with judgments when I am confronted with seemingly irrational anger and attack. What did I do to cause this, I ask in vain. Probably nothing. The anger and attack are just manifestations of the depth of insanity into which all of us have fallen. We have to climb the ladder back up to sanity, but we do have help from guidance. It helps sometimes just to identify anger and attack, directed at ourselves, to be just madness or insanity. Then we are in a better position just to forgive without judging.

5 – Avoid Judgment

Judging should always be avoided.

6 – Peace

“Only the open-minded can be at peace, for they alone see reason for it. (M16)”

Affirmation: “When I am open-minded, I can be at peace.”

Open-mindedness and tolerance for the thoughts and actions of others are closely aligned. It is good to find out in the Course that open-mindedness will allow us to be at peace. Who would not want to know how to be at peace?

7 – Definition

What does open-mindedness mean? Basically, it is the contrasting way to say that we do not judge each other. We need a positive expression, rather than the more negative “do not judge.” And “open-mindedness” is given us in the Course. It is always better to state a truism in positive terms rather than to muddy our minds with the negative.

8 – Peace

We will be at peace when we embrace open-mindedness. Do we want this? Of course, and the Course specifies exactly how to make peace of mind ours.

9 – Forgiveness

“How do the open-minded forgive? They have let go all things that would prevent forgiveness. They have in truth abandoned the world, and let it be restored to them in newness and in joy so glorious they could never have conceived of such a change. (M16)”

This passage is a great promise and promises a great joy. To have the world restored to us in newness is a blessing, a boon, that all of us would want.

10 – Let Go of Judgment

What things do we need to let go that prevent forgiveness? Primarily judgment, I think. We need to avoid the memory of wrongs done to us. We need truly, as they say, to forgive and forget, remembering that we live in an illusion and nothing bad has, in truth, happened. Our brother/sister has been living in madness, saying and doing things that hurt us. He/she would not say or do those things if they knew better. We sometimes cannot teach them any better, and to do may be arrogance. We don’t have to make the way to Heaven plain (an ACIM tenet). We are not better than they, forgiving out of a sense of superiority. We are not superior in any way. Only time separates us from our brothers and sisters on the spiritual pathway, and time does not really exist.

11 – Spiritual Pathway

The spiritual pathway is its own reward. Others do not have to change for us to be at peace. We may have to distance ourselves from an abusive relationship, but we still can forgive even the heinous wrongs. We do this for ourselves as much as for the other person, who may not even know of our forgiveness. We simply walk a better path, a joy-strewn path.

12 – Seeing the World Anew

To see the world anew is what we really want. It can be done, and, when we are calm and harmonious, seeing the world anew seems the easiest thing out there. Stress is, to my mind, the great boogieman. We don’t need to let stress get to us, although sometimes this seems unavoidable. Anger and attack can be left behind, as many hours out of the day as possible. Our lives will be immeasurably better for walking the primrose pathway.

13 – Sparkling

“Nothing but sparkles now which seemed so dull and lifeless before. And above all are all things welcoming, for threat is gone. No clouds remain to hide the face of Christ. Now is the goal achieved. Forgiveness is the final goal of the curriculum. (M16)”

We frequently feel anger, and we attack, when we are threatened. One family member in my past was particularly vicious when threatened, and I understood this even as quite a small child, long before I discovered A Course in Miracles. Recognizing what had happened, the fact of feeling threatened, meant that the insanity of it did not touch me very deeply. I knew that in her better moments, the love for me was very deep. I could forgive, even as a quite young child.

14 – Forgiveness

The passage above ends with the a truth that we need to understand about A Course in Miracles. Forgiveness is the final goal of ACIM. We do not, in these books, go beyond that. A Course of Love does take us beyond, though, and some feel that this trilogy is a sequel to ACIM, that Jesus had more to teach us. The idea is that we seemed to have dislodged the ego, but didn’t have anything with which to replace it, leaving us still searching. In A Course of Love, we end the search. We are enough. It is time to end the search. We do not have to remain endless seekers.

15 – Single Aim

“Forgiveness is it single aim, at which all learning ultimately converges. It is indeed enough. (M16)”

Learning converges with forgiveness. A Course of Love goes beyond learning, though, and it would be good for us to review some of those lessons. (See the “History of the Blog” in “About Miracles Each Day,” and then refer to the Archives to get the right month and year for previous postings.)

16 – ACIM and A Course of Love

I wonder if Jesus changed his mind between A Course in Miracles and the scribing of A Course of Love. Was forgiveness not enough? I wonder deeply. Certainly we need to realize that we want an end to the endless searching for something more. Otherwise, we are never truly at peace. Jesus would have us be at peace.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to be open-minded and tolerant of the words and actions of my brothers and sisters. May I not fume in private at anything that they say or do.

I long for Your peace. Thank you for giving me one more way that Your peace can come to me.

Amen.

A Course in Miracles – What It Says, Part 1

1 – The Real vs. the Unreal

“Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God”

This is how A Course in Miracles begins. It makes a fundamental distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception. Knowledge is truth, under one law, the law of love or God. . . .The world of perception, on the other hand, is the world of time, of change, of beginnings and endings. It is based on interpretation, not on facts.

To read the epigraph is awe-inspiring, a proper approach to God Himself. The epigraph makes a sharp contrast between illusion and reality, between illusion as perceived, and the real world as a result of the coming knowledge. And what we know in this world is illusion.

2 – Jerry Jampolsky and Hugh Prather

Shortly after his death, Hugh Prather spoke to a friend, Jerry Jampolsky, in which he declared that A Course in Miracles is absolutely true. We live in illusion. Hugh said that we need not to worry so much. His message suggested that he himself regretted the worry that he had given some of the events and happenings of his just-lived life.

3 – Worry

We all need to cast worry aside. Worry dissipate when fear has been rejected in favor of love. And A Course in Miracles counsels forgiveness of our brother, and through our relationship to him, we come prepared for Awakening.

4 – Dream

“When you have been caught in the world of perception you are caught in a dream.”

ACIM uses the term “dream” more than “illusion.” There are some very beautiful passages in which we learn that Awakening is as though a light has come on in our dream. But we will not awaken with fear and a scream of mortal terror, because A Course in Miracles has given us the means to awaken without fear (from ACIM).

5 – Perception

We are perceiving with our minds. And perception always partakes of ourselves.

“’Projection makes perception.’ (ACIM Text) We look inside first, decide the kind of world we want to see and then project that world outside, making it the truth as we see it. We make it true by our interpretations of what it is we are seeing.”

This oft-quoted statement, “Projection makes perception,” means further that we not only project the world, but that it is therefore not really there! There is no world, we are told, though we are also told that not everybody is ready to accept this startling statement by Jesus.

6 – Sins vs. Mistakes

“Sin is defined as ‘lack of love’ (from ACIM Text). Since love is all there is, sin in the sight of the Holy Spirit is a mistake to be corrected, rather than an evil to be punished.”

Sin is described in ACIM as an attracting concept, one that will be repeated because of an attraction. Mistakes, a simple change of word, in our language simply denote something that we want to change, to correct. There is no attracting characteristic to mistakes. And sin suggests something that is unforgivable, whereas mistakes are always forgivable. We need to see all that our brothers says to us or does to us as forgivable, though we will not always stay in his vicinity if the situation becomes untenable.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for the calm that these messages of A Course in Miracles induce in me. I have learned much. My only regret is that I sometimes forget when stress is present in my life. And that is when I need to remember most.

Help me to be a non-controversial, congenial writer about ACIM. I would focus on the ways that we are similar, not the ways that we differ in our attitudes and beliefs. Help me to stay true in my interpretations to what ACIM really says. May I interpret what ACIM says in a way that is open to all individuals who study the volumes.

Please be with me.

Amen.

Nothing Real Can Be Threatened. Nothing Unreal Exists.

manet - bar“This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God. (T-in.2)”

1 – Illusion

As I read this passage, it seems to me that we are encouraged, once again, to see that the world in which we live is illusion. It is not real, and therefore does not truly exist. The real, in my view, are the intangibles of hope, love, joy, peace, and the like. These cannot be taken from us except by our choice. And when we are in our right minds, we choose to keep these blessings in our hearts.

We have the peace of God when we have His intangibles. And the passage concludes, “Herein lies the peace of God.”

2 – Special Attention

This passage is the epigram for A Course in Miracles, and, as such, deserves particular consideration. Let’s take a look at the words themselves, and how they are interpreted elsewhere in ACIM.

3 – The Real

The “real” is usually referred to as the “real world,” the unplaced place that we see when we are nearing Awakening. The real world is experienced only briefly, but we don’t know what “brief” means in eternity. Mari Perron, the scribe for A Course of Love, believes that when we have experienced Awakening, we are in fact not living an illusion any longer, but are experiencing reality. Hugh Prather, in an afterlife visit to his friend Jerry Jampolsky, however, said that A Course in Miracles was absolutely correct, that we are living an illusion. And Hugh was an advanced teacher of God. So there can be no easy answers. We, each of us, need to turn within to ask what truth is for us, what we truly believe.

4 – The Unreal

The “unreal” is the illusion, the maya in which we find ourselves throughout most of our lives, before Awakening, at the least. And this unreal does not have to affect us adversely, though it usually does. The pain, the suffering, all can be seen as the mirages that they are. And we can turn aside from them just as surely as we welcomed them.

5 – Real World

There is an extremely reassuring passage that bears quoting, about the real world:

“Sit quietly and look upon the world you see, and tell yourself: ‘The real world is not like this. It has no buildings and there are no streets where people walk alone and separate. There are no stores where people buy an endless list of things they do not need. It is not lit with artificial light, and night comes not upon it. There is no day that brightens and grows dim. There is no loss. Nothing is there but shines, and shines forever.’ (T-13.VII.1)”

6 – Mystery

I do not pretend to understand what is being said here. But I know that the real world, if experienced as joy, is not dependent upon things of this world to sustain it. This is what I think is meant here. Not that there will be no things of this world, but that we will see them differently. They will not mean anything particular, just because what we see is physical. We will have our sights on the nonphysical, on the intangible. And we will be much the better for it.

7 – Take a Moment

We need to take a moment from time to time to ask what really matters, what the real world will truly show to us. And when we find an answer, we need to engrave it upon our hearts. Certainly we have progressed beyond the desire to attract material objects as a way of self-aggrandizement. But we need something to replace the physical objects with, or we will experience a sense of loss. And there is no need—ever—to experience a sense of loss. The happiness that Jesus gives as we approach Awakening, as we experience the happy dreams the Holy Spirit sends, is without parallel in the physical universe. It is not physical at all. We have our physical needs satisfied, but that is of small consequence to us. We are looking at a higher reality.

8 – All Will Be Well

So let us seek the real as we go about our world. Let us drop the unreal.

And all will be well.

Affirmation: “Let us seek for the real today.”

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I am thankful for You today. This is a particularly good day, and it comes to me from You. May all with whom I come in contact in any way be blessed by their circumstances today.

Be with my significant others today and every day. May I fulfill what You would have me say and do for them.

Amen.

Admit Your Desire to Rest

“Admit now your desire to rest, a desire that could make you weep and make you wish to sleep an endless sleep.  If you but understood the energy required to keep the world of your illusion in its place, you would understand the rest that will simply come of giving up your need to do so.  (A Course of Love, 12.7)”

Affirmation:  “Rest today.”Renoir-La-Lecture

Reflections:

1 – Exerting Energy

I find the idea interesting that we are exerting energy to keep illusions in place, and that we will feel more rested when we have given up this essentially heartless task.  The world is here, once again, defined as illusion (A Course in Miracles said “dreams”).  We do project our interior to the outside of our seeing eyes.  We make what we view first within.  If hate finds a place in our hearts, we will see a hateful world.  On the contrary, if love finds a place in our hearts, we will view a loving world.  Cannot we see the wisdom in this interpretation?  Cannot we realize that when we see others who are conflicted, we ourselves are at that moment conflicted, and we are conflicted first?

2 – Hugh Prather

Hugh Prather makes the latter point very precisely.  He notes that when he and his wife Gayle see couples in public who need to have something “fixed,” then at that moment the two of them seem to need to have something “fixed” in their normally loving relationship.  How could it be otherwise?  And is not this dynamic something that can be noticed, easily, in daily life?

3 – Fixing the Outer / Inner

When we have drunk too much coffee, are we not prone to pick a fight with our nearest and dearest?  We are too stressed from the caffeine, and we therefore react.  We do not act for no good reason, but we try to fix the outer when the inner has been compromised.

4 – Rest Today

Today would be a good day to decide that we will rest rather than try to prop up the world of illusion by wishing for that which we don’t have.  Just turn inward when stressed, and know that this too shall pass.

5 – Invite Rest

The only way to get rest is to invite it.  And this we do when we stop trying to make this world into something that it is not.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would rest today from my weariness.  I know that I am not nearly as weary as some of my brothers and sisters, but the ego has not yet died in me, and keeping the illusions going has sapped my strength.  I would end this foolishness today.

Thank You for the joy that You have given me today.  I know that the joy comes from You, even as I struggle against egoic impulses.  Be with me as I leave the struggle behind and simply rest.

Amen.

Living in the Flow

“What you perceive in others you are strengthening in yourself.  (T80)”

Affirmation:  “perceive in others. . .strengthen in myself”

Reflections:

1 – Without Reflects Within

This passage shows us a way to know what is really going on internally with ourselves.  Whatever we perceive in others, we have, usually unconsciously, looked within and found (a Course concept).

2 – The Prathers

Hugh Prather and his wife Gayle once wrote that they were aware that when everyone that they encountered seemed to need “fixing” in some way, it was their own perception guiding them to take a look internally.  (Note:  This is a paraphrase of their writing.)  Certainly we can easily see the truth of this assertion.  If we are living “in the flow,” and all seems right in our little world, then it is likely that we are at peace and that we are not trying to change anybody.  A Course in Miracles does not emphasize changing our brothers and sisters.  Repeatedly we are encouraged to take a look at a brother or sister, and to try to determine what, if anything, they are ready to accept by way of salvation.  We are not meant to be aggressive (an interpretation of ACIM, not stated directly therein).

3 – How Do We Live in the Flow?

How do we easily live in the flow?  We do not hold such strong, stubborn attitudes in our daily lives.  We are flexible, and we guide our lives by the guidance that the Holy Spirit so often gives to us when we are receptive.  If we are having a good day, it is very likely that we are, consciously or unconsciously, giving up our self-will and living in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  What would it take for us to do this, to follow His guidance, all the time?  It takes the flexibility that I alluded to, just above.  We need to stop being so certain that we are right in the plans that seem necessary for our day.  We may have first decided that something is so, when actually the truth is far from us.  We need to ask that the truth about what we need to do with our day be shown to us, as the day unfolds.  The day is not often shown far in advance.  (This is personal interpretation, not stated in ACIM.)

4 – Changing What Is Within

This truth of perceiving in others what we really hold within is a powerful teacher.  The “sins” that we perceive in others are, first of all, within ourselves.  Seeing this, we can see what needs to be changed.  And it is not our brother.  It is something within ourselves.

5 – Projection Makes Perception

Our brother will seem much more loving as our own thoughts become loving.  “Projection makes perception” is a Course concept.  May we learn from our brother, even as we sometimes note lamentable emotions in him or her.  These emotions (and often actions) have first been within ourselves.

Prayer:

Dear Father,

May I learn from others:  What I see in them is actually something that is within myself.  May I use this knowledge to improve my disposition, my mind and spirit, and my behavior.

When I am in a critical mood, I am not happy.  In fact, I would say that a critical mood is the primary factor if I run into a rough patch in which I seem to experience unhappiness.  Take this habit from me, dear God.  I would be tolerant of my brothers and sisters, and I would reap the benefit of a more benign attitude toward all of them.

As my thoughts become more loving, my brothers and sisters will be perceived as more loving.  This is a great boon for us.  May we realize the truth that projection makes perception, as we learned in the Course.

Amen.

I Choose to See My Brother’s Sinlessness

ACIM Workbook Lesson 335 – for Thursday, December 1, 2011

Affirmation:  “I choose to see my brother’s sinlessness.”  

“What could I restore Your memory to me, except to see my brother’s sinlessness?  (WB470)”

Reflections:

1 – The Memory of God

The memory about which this passage talks is the memory that we are meant to have, the memory of God.  It is part of a prayer, and that is why the passage says “Your.”

2 – Recognize Sinlessness

We need to understand only when we recognize our brothers and sisters as sinless will we have peace.  Is this not hard to do, however?  We remember, failing to have forgiven, the attacks and anger that have been sent in our direction, and we cannot quite feel that this is coming from an innocent person, a sinless person.  To fully comprehend, we must buy into the philosophy of A Course in Miracles completely, knowing that we live in an illusory world and that nothing has ever truly hurt the real Self whom we are.

3 – Our Real Self Knows No Harm

If we make a choice to see the sinlessness of our brothers and sisters, we will be well on our way to the wholeness that will allow us to forgive any past misdeeds.  We will know that our real Self has not been harmed, and if this is the case, what do we have to hold against others?

4 – Forgive Ourselves Also

We may it difficult, as well, to forgive ourselves for similar misdeeds toward others.  Unless and until we can forgive ourselves, we are unlikely to forgive others completely (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).  We too have not sinned, but have made mistakes (some of which can be rectified).  If we can make amends, now is the time to do so.  If it is too late to make amends, then we need to commune with God about our next step.  Hugh Prather suggested doing penance, and perhaps this too is a pathway that we might consider.

5 – The Memory of God Returns

We will find the memory of God in our minds and hearts when we have seen, truly seen, the sinlessness of our brothers and sisters.  If this seems impossible now, pray for guidance, that the difficult may be made easy.  And the difficult can be made easy.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for this day’s lesson, which gives us a simple formula for remembering You:  Forgive our brothers and sisters, and recognize sinlessness.  The real Self has never been harmed.  

May I recall this simple truth when the day turns rough.  I would walk into sunlight with You, guided there by the Holy Spirit.  

Amen.

In Fearlessness and Love I Spend Today

ACIM Workbook Lesson 310 – for Sunday, November 6, 2011

Affirmation:  “In fearlessness and love I spend today.”

“There is no room in us for fear today, for we have welcomed love into our hearts.  (WB454)”

Reflections:

1 – Love and Fear

This is an important composite of much that the Text tells us.  Love and fear are the only emotions, and everything else that we feel are components of these two.  We need to leave fear behind and to turn, always, to love.

2 – Fear is Persistent

Of course, it is easy to say to leave fear and turn to love.  It is not something that we should ever attempt without divine intervention.  Even when we have studied A Course in Miracles for years, fear will rear its ugly head from time to time.  And we will not always have it within our power to listen to the Holy Spirit when in the throes of an anxiety attack.  Then we need to realize that there is a reason that we are not in this world alone.  We reach outward to our brothers and sisters, sometimes to professional help or pastoral guidance, and we learn more.  Temporarily there may be others who know more than we do (a Manual tenet).

3 – Today’s Lesson as an Affirmation

Used as an affirmation, the lesson for the day is very helpful.  If our fear is only low-grade, the affirmation may help us quite a bit.

4 – Catherine Marshall’s Solution to Fear

Catherine Marshall, though, says that in her experience, affirmations are not powerful enough when she is very fearful.  Walking right up to the fear and staring it in the face seem to work better.  Of course, she and we do not walk alone; we are, indeed, being “carried” by God (from an anecdote told by Hugh Prather).

5 – Welcome Love

When we welcome love into our hearts, we will naturally encounter fewer actions in the outside world that will arouse fear in us.  We will project love, peace, calm to the outer world of our perceptions, because projection makes perception (an ACIM tenet).  The world that we will make at such times will stand us in good stead, in memory, when we are less careful to fill our minds with the Thoughts of God.  The Thoughts of God will always save us.  And this is what we really seek as we try to live, consistently, in love.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would not be fearful nor anxious today.  I would welcome love, which is the only permanent cure to fearful and anxious thoughts and emotions.  Let me rid myself of fear in whatever way seems to help me the most.  I realize that different techniques work at different times and for different people, but Jesus says that the only permanent solution is a return to love.

May I return to love today.  May You join me in this endeavor.  May I turn inward whenever I am beset by worry, and may my assurance that Your Guide is with me be the best means of knowing that all is truly well.  Thank You for being there within me, and may I touch that inner core more and more often.

Amen.

A LIBRARIAN VIEWS A COURSE IN MIRACLES

by Celia Hales

Previously published under another title in The Reference Librarian, 2003.  Copyright permission granted for web reposting from the following web site:

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=g903962956~db=all

NoteI prepared to write this library-oriented article by first taking notes form the early work of both Hugh Prather and Jerry Jampolsky, work that was based on ACIM.  Their books provided, at the time, a remarkable summary from which I could steep myself in Course-related ideas that applied to my daily work life as a reference librarian.

SUMMARY:  The reflections penned in this article began as a single paragraph contributed several years ago to Charles Anderson’s “The Exchange,” a column in RQ (now Reference & User Services Quarterly) (Anderson, 1995).  I elaborated upon the concept through further reflection and augmented the ideas through a literature review.  These ideas are meant to spark interest among library school students, new reference librarians, and veteran reference librarians who perhaps need new reason to show up with a positive attitude at that next reference shift.  The thesis is that this moment in time within a given reference interview occurs only once, regardless of how many times a librarian has heard the question.  We as librarians must always be alert to respond appropriately to the distinct contributions that the given library user brings to that question.  In the process, we are equals in that the librarian knows more of the research technique to uncover the appropriate sources, but the library user knows more of what his specific slant on the topic will be.  We would be wise to stay diligent, to listen well, and to take nothing for granted.  The reference interview then becomes a lively, energetic, and stimulating discussion meant to lead to library research at its best.

KEYWORDS:  Reference service, reference interview, reference desk

INTRODUCTION

Arguably the most important part of reference service, if the librarian is past the initial phase of gaining her skill, is the reference interview–the way that librarian and user interact to bring about a successful experience for both.  Several years ago Thomas P. Slavens (1994) wrote a definitive monograph that is still useful and ought to be consulted by anyone interested in this topic.  In addition to Slavens’s monograph, there are a number of aspects to this relationship that have received attention in the literature over the years.  The following more fully explores these aspects.  User and librarian are essentially a partnership, and nothing good will ultimately come of something that is perceived in any way but equality between these two  individuals, meeting in time in one moment.

There is a great abundance of scholarly analysis of the reference interview available:  In the last ten years, these authors include (in addition to Slavens, described above) Marilyn Domas White (1998); Sara F. Fine (1995); Carol Kuhlthau (1994); Catherine Sheldrick Ross and Patricia Dewdney (1994); Karen Williams, Janet Sue Fore, and John Budd (1993).  (Other seminal articles are included in the bibliography.)  For the most part, the philosophical underpinnings of the reference interview are not covered explicitly, and only a careful reading suggests the underlying philosopphy.  In this article, I would like to make explicit that which has gone unstated, perhaps because we fear that our understanding of human nature will in some way undermine our rationality and our objectivity.  It is my belief that our personal philosophies (whether purely secular, scientific, religious-attuned, or eclectic) are the prime framework within which we operate, and until these concepts are examined, we will not be fully aware of why we do what we do at the reference desk.  I will also argue that a model of partnership is the very best philosophy upon which to base a reference service, and to this end will draw upon the model of cooperative learning in public education that is popular in the United States.

COOPERATIVE LEARNING AND THE REFERENCE DESK

Cooperative learning is a method used increasingly in classrooms across the United States, from kindergarten to graduate school.  Its chief proponents, Roger and David Johnson, have conducted extensive research across the country to prove that cooperative learning meets the needs of students better than the traditional lecture (1998, 1994, 1991, 1989).  (For an extensive discussion of cooperative learning as one of the “greatest success stories in the history of educational research,” see Slavin, et.al., 2003.)  In cooperative learning, students meet as groups to discuss the lesson, and in so doing can often learn as much from each other as from the teacher per se.  Yet it is the teacher who guides the learning at every point.

The cooperative learning model applies well as the reference desk.  The librarian currently knows more about the library, but the user knows more about his research need.  As Hicks has pointed out, we work together in a “mediated” setting (1992).  working cooperatively, we will be much more likely to handle the reference interview in a manner consistent with good reference practice as well as genuine encounter on a personal level.  We need to examine three areas primarily:  (1) the expectations that each brings to the encounter and, particularly, how the initial interaction determines the outcome of the interview; (2) the fact that both librarian and user are actually equals in the process; and (3) the important point that we are engaging in a single moment in time that will not recur, a moment of which we are advised to consider not lightly.  Many of these concepts relate to the emotional tone of the interview, and it is largely up to the reference librarian to take the initiative in adopting the right modus operandi  in the exchange.  The reference librarian is the information intermediary, the one who really makes the difference in what will result (White, 1992).

WHAT ARE LIBRARIAN/USER EXPECTATIONS?

The librarian and the user have brought to their encounter a set of assumptions that will determine the fate of their discussion.  It is clear that there are steps that we can take at the outset to be sure that the encounter will work for the best of everybody involved–librarian, user, and even reference colleagues and other library users who observe the encounter.  It is sometimes said that one makes an impression in the first 15 seconds of interaction; if true, it is no less true in the reference interview.

It is sometimes thought that dress, manner, and the first words that one speaks are the most important indicators of the impression that one makes.  But there are many other aspects.  S. D. Neill (1985) relates a complex model of user/librarian characteristics that influence the reference interview.  Among these, for the inquirer as well as the librarian, are the following:  character, personality, values, age, education, cognitive abilities, communication abilities and style, appearance, perception of and assumptions about libraries and librarians, etc.  We will focus on appearance first.

If in an academic or school library, the librarian is likely to be less casually dressed than the user; this is frequently true for public libraries as well, but generally not true for special libraries.  In that opening instant the user decides whether or not someone dressed so differently (i.e., professionally) can be on the same wave length as herself.  The dress may suggest authority that will need to be de-emphasized by manner and words if the encounter is going to be empathetic.

The “manner” of the reference librarian–that she is open and approachable–is probably the most important aspect of those crucial 15 seconds.  This involves body language, an open posture and an inquiring face and friendly smile.  We will duscuss in detail below the assertion that the librarian and user are actually equals in their exchange; yet equality of librarian and user is the most important aspect of the interaction to be made clear at the outset.  Let the user know that you respect her question and that you are giving it your full consideration.  Listen for the tone of the words that the user uses; if she is hesitant or timid, you must do what you can to put her at ease.  You too must be at ease, to allow an answer to arise from the subconscious mind, where all that education and experience for reference work resides.

As the above illustrates, it is primarily up to the reference librarian to influence the course of the interview.  As White (1981) says, the dimensions of the reference interview are “influenced by decision made during the interview, usually by the librarian.”  The user will determine if he has found a sympathetic listener in you.  Nearly every user wonders internally if he dares to express ignorance (which in class might get a lower grade).  Is this librarian a friend to me in my information need?  Virtually none of this internal conversation is at the conscious level, but it affects the entire exchange.

The first words are crucial, in that the right type of open question will ensure that the librarian correctly elicits from the user her “real” question.  Going fairly slowly at this point is recommended, because to forge ahead is almost to ensure that the wrong question has first been aske and answered, while the “real” question goes unrecognized.

As one moves past the opening 15 seconds, it is important to listen carefully, but not so carefully as to make the user uncomfortable.  Also, it is quite possible that too much intensity will break your stride.  One works more easily if one is relaxed enough to listen to all of the mind, subconscious as well as conscious.  You will probably begin thinking of your strategy very quickly as the question unfolds.  But this is not the time to jump to conclusions, because the research supports the fact that a careful interview is vital to a successful reference encounter.

Many years ago, Braun (1977) published an impressive short piece that illustated the role of  Transactional Analysis in the reference interview.  this focuses on the librarian, the user, and the various ways in which the “Parent,” “Adult,” and “Child” interact to bring about a successful or unsuccessful conclusion.  We will emphasize mostly staying in the “Adult” frame of reference, keeping the content on a rational plane.  To this end, hear out the user; ask questions; move fairly slowly so that he has time to think of the right response.  If you are too quick in these moments, or try to put closure on the question too early, you may find an answer, but the interview may have failed because it is not the answer that is needed.  And the user may never tell you!  That is how intimidating libraries and librarians can be to the typical user.

As you begin to frame an answer, let intuition rise to the surface.  We all have it, even if it has been let to lie dormant in our all-too-rational world, and it can be a vital link to those storehouses of reference knowledge that have come from library school and some years of reference experience (Neill, 1985).  It is likely that you will respond to intuition when needing to know how much information to impart, and how fast to impart it, rather than what the specific information might be.  Look into the user’s eyes; the familiar “glaze-over” is, of course, certain evidence that you are losing her.  Sometimes this intuitional response will indicate giving less information that you might think best; but it is also very possible at this point that you are giving all that the user can absorb.  Each person will receive the maximum that she can at a given moment.

Your intuition can not only give you clues about the user’s rate of absorption, but it will also give you hints when you are simply giving the wrong information–without realizing why consciously (Burton, 1990).  Remember that we do in reference work have that research finding of approximately 50 percent inaccuracy (Benham, 1987).  We can improve our average by being more attentive to the moment, conducting a thorough reference interview.

It is suggestive to realize that this encounter is not necessarily a coincidence.  Why did the person select you rather than other colleagues at the desk?  While it may often be that you are the available person, there are also many times when the user has a choice of whom to ask.  There is something about your manner or your appearance that is attracting to this particular person.

One should note how often a question seems to be tailor-made for the knowledge that you yourself personally has.  How many times has your best short-answer librarian picked up the phone and gotten the question that she is most equipped to handle?  How many times have you felt an empathy for the reference question that you are asked–the reference question that picks up on your own interests and is startlingly apt for you?  When one develops an easy flow in reference work, one will be aware that these types of “highs” occur daily.  It is far better not to look on your reference encounters as purely “chance,” but to tentatively hold the hypothesis that there is meaning to be derived for both of you from this encounter.

GETTING HELP

In the best reference settings, it is not a demerit to ask for help if one does not know where to find the answer.  Cooperative reference service is the best way to go (Orgren, 1994).  If this acknowledgement seems to be a demerit in your setting, then perhaps change is required.  If we do not work cooperatively, asking for assistance as needed, the patron gets poor service.  if we are too afraid to ask for help, perhaps because asking appears to be too threatening, then the climate of opinion in a given reference service is fearful.  There are many causes for this attitude, but peer evaluations are one major cause.  Certainly this method of evaluation is widely used in libraries, but if it sets up individuals as competitors in the reference process, it has gone too far.

When reference staff cooperate, the reference service is strong.  Eventually we will have a truly expert group of individuals, ready to handle diverse questions.  In trying to gain the courage to express ignorance about various questions and to get help from colleagues, remember that reference is set up to be a very humbling experience.  We have our entire minds on the line every time that we say, “May I help you?”  That takes a special kind of courage, and support from one’s colleagues goes a long way toward making the pressure bearable.

The best reference librarians are keenly aware of how much they do not know, and usually they are quick to acknowledge their weaknesses (perhaps in part because of their confidence that in many areas they are strong).  The reference librarian who covers for a lack of knowledge by never referring a question is frequently new to reference.  Yet we must help such colleagues to feel welcome in our reference setting, and this includes acculturating them to the advantage of saying, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”  This, after all, is the best automatic response when faced with a question that one cannot answer, and one of the best ways to learn.  Such a response also does not ill-serve the reference user (Pauli, 1992).

If we take the time to think about our reference interview, it becomes obvious that we are in a teacher-learner relationship.  It is not obvious, however, that we both learn from each other, and it is not obvious that what we “teach” (i.e., what we answer in the reference interview) is what we reinforce in our own minds.  We are both learning from each other in every encounter, and the content of the learning is nonverbal as well as verbal.  We as reference librarians also learn even better than the listener, because we are learning from our own words by reinforcement.  This phenomenon is an aspect of cooperative learning that is just now being explored in education at all levels, and it is a powerful argument that the better students do not lose in a setting of cooperative learning (Johnson, 1989 and 1991).

Moreover, we are not teaching solely the content of our answers, the words that we use and their meaning; we are making an impact by the nonverbal aspects of the exchange.  These nonverbal aspects frequently have a stronger impact than the reference answer itself; they correspond to the manner and style that we demonstrate.  If we do not convey patience and kindness, but seem hurried or impatient, we will be “teaching” that the question (and, by extension, the user) is not very important in our eyes.  what librarian wants to let such an attitude spill over to the students in an academic library, or the citizens in a public library?  None!  We are expressing opinions about another in virtually every nuance of our public stance; it behooves us to be as benign as possible.  The content of the reference question/answer may only be the vehicle for teaching greater truths about living–truths such as patience and tolerance.  We rarely think about such intangibles in our mundane daily activities, but would we not be better off if we did think about such issues a little more?

It is sometimes true that we look at our users with fear, and that we impugn  negative traits in them that they do not have (or if they do, that should be overlooked).  This fearful stance is caused by our sense of being threatened; it is informed, to a great extent, by project of our own inadequacies and insecurities.  In an academic setting, for example, the approach of a faculty member who has previously been demanding in regard to her reference assistance will cause a tightening of emotions and an immediate bracing for the worst (Baker, 1995).  If, instead of seeing this person as a demanding and hostile user, we instead see someone who is fearful pof failing to get tenure, our attitudes will change.  We will smile in warmth, trying to assist him indeed to “make the grace” with his peers.

It is also never helpful to attempt to correct another person who is being difficult.  We do not usually do this in an obvious way, but we may subtly express our disapproval of a public library user who seems to have some hidden question that she does not want to share.  We think, “How can I help if she won’t tell me what she wants to know?”  We may then turn testy, and this type of behavior is some of the worst that can be observed at the reference desks across the land.  (It also, not incidentally, has the tendency to spread among colleagues, so that one testy librarian breeds another, and eventually the service itself has taken a downward turn.)  We can abrasively ask leading questions, and  then “turn off” ourselves if the user doesn’t “open up” to our satisfaction.  This type of behavior is quite counterproductive.  Just let the person “be,” keeping a tolerant air always, seeking to answer as much of his question as th elibrary user is willing to share.  If the user recognizes that he has a friend in you, it is almost certain that more will be shared, making it possible, actually, to answer the “real” question.  Even though you may appear to be only helping the user in such a situation, you will actually be yourself as well.  Any teacher-learner situation works in both directions, as we have suggested.  What will you be teaching yourself?  Certainly, two aspects that troublesome interviews bring out in the librarian are patience and forbearance–traits that good reference librarians always have in surplus (Gothberg, 1987).

As the interview gets underway, and you are sorting through ways to answer the question as well as seeking to be empathetic, always seek to find peace in the moment.  One never does her best when under pressure that is frequently tinged with fear or anger.  When relaxed and at peace, though, the encounter is beneficial to your user as well as yourself.

WE ARE ALL EQUALS

We need to emphasize that librarian and user are actually equals in the interview process.  Although the librarian knows more about the library, the user is the expert in what she needs to know about the subject.  This “expert” status even includes the bewildered student, who can be helped to understand her information needs by careful questioning.  She may not come to the reference desk with a caarefully-worded statement of need, but the student still has attended the class and knows more about the instructor’s assignment than does the librarian.  The degree of information that we have varies; yet iinformation does not set us apart as adversaries, nor does it suggest special favor  And the student is always particularly reluctant to express ignorance, which in the classroom might mean a poorer grade from her “class participation.”  As Cummins says, “They [the students] must go to a relative stranger who knows things that they do not know.  They must admit ignorance and ask for help”  (Cummins, 1984).

Even though we have the M.L.S. and one or more other college degrees, and we have (likely) years of experience as a reference librarian, it is well to note that an egalitarian attitude works best at the reference desk.  The user is not “less” than you because at this particular moment, you are in the position to be of help because of (presumably) greater knowledge.  To invite the reverse attitude is to suggest an authoritarianism and an arrogant air that will undermine any empathetic attitude that might develop o therwise.  At this moment, you temporarily have more, perhaps, to give than to take; but you are not superior to him.  The two of you are in this together!

Moreover, you are certainly NOT the expert in what the user needs.  If you even attempt to second-guess her, you will be in for rather rude awakenings.  The user wants the information that she has requested; this is important.  Even if you don’t think that it is the “right” information; or if you think that she is taking a wrong tack, these judgments should not be the immediate part of your assistance.  Sometimes you can offer a given reference book that has been asked for, and then turn the conversation to “But do you need something more specialized, or more advanced, than magazines?”  You do the user a service when you acknowledge her question with a response, and then, if necessary, steer the dialogue to something that might assist more.  Note the word “might”; and remember that it is up to the user to make this assessment.

Remember that in this exchange the user is “teaching” you as well.  He is telling you more about particular needs, and you are learning how best to help.  He is also influencing your day by the emotional tone that is being developed between the two of you.  Mutually you have come together with this other person to make a change, move toward improvement of some kind, and all the while simply to enjoy each other’s companionship.  Anything less than this optimism will not have formed a good exchange

As mentioned, it is truly that the “two of us are in this together”  In the model of cooperative learning, teacher and student come together to learn; the teacher looks to the student’s contribution as good in and of itself.  The teacher is not trying to get the student to regurgitate the comments given by her as the superior in the relationship.  It is not necessarily a matter of the librarian “fixing” the problem of the student–much as one might take a car to a mechanic or your body to a physician.  You are there as a consultant, surely, but the contribution of the user is very, very important and will lead to the optimal outcome for the encounter (Lucas, 1993).  All too often a user is likely to try to “hand over” the problem (the reference question) to the librarian and, in effect, ask her to “fix it” (provide the detailed answer to the need) without making substantial contribution at all.  This is particularly true in the academic setting, wh en the student may not even havae read her assignment very carefully, and comes with assignment in hand, so that the librarian can read it and give a “diagnosis.”  In the best world of reference, this simply would not happen.  But since it does happen, and with some regularity, we must be ready to turn the question back to the user and ask for her best judgment about what is really needed.  The responsibility is to be shared equally between librarian and user; no abdication on either side is allowed!  As described earlier, the librarian knows more about the resources available in the library, but it is up to the user to know more about her particular research need as well as the particular slant to the topic that she wants to explore.  So the user is teaching us as well, factually in regard to the reference question as well as in more subtle ways that approach a relationship to life itself.  Obviously, this attitude does not foster a “winning” or “losing” approach to the interaction; both are equally winners or losers–depending on the success of the mutual encounter.

It is likely apparent that we are viewing librarian and user as “joined” in the sense that their goal is a shared one (to find the right information to answer the need); their emotional tenor affects each, many times in subconscious ways; and they will take away from the exchange a better attitude toward their living that day–or a mixed jumble of negative emotions that will hinder the living of the rest of the day.  If you as an experienced reference librarian, think a moment about how many times an unsatisfactory exchange has colored the rest of the reference service desk slot?  If you are so affected, think how much more will be the user, who is likely somewhat intimidated by the process anyway?  (As we all know, many users appraoch a reference desk only a very few times in their whole lives.)  This joining, therefore, takes many forms, but at its base is the fact that communication goes on through many channels.  The right kind of communication will produce peace of mind; the wrong kind, a wastebasket of negative emotions that will include defense, attack, fear, and retaliation.  Sjurely we want to avoid the latter and seek for the former at every possible junction!

What aspect of interaction that we want to avoid at all costs is our own sense of judging the question, and, by extension, the user who asks that question.  Judging, or evaluating the worth of a question, is absolutely none of our business!  It is true that if a student has selected a point of view that will be hard to support from the literature, or (more frequently) has selected too broad a topic, we can suggest alternative ways of handling the same material.  But the question itself and the person asking it need to be respected at all costs.  This is particularly important when questions of religion and politics come up.  It is quite typical to encounter an international student who wants to research a political question from the standpoint of his country’s point of view; we will personally not always believe that various countries take are defensible, but this does not allow us to engage in influencing that student (Lopez, 1993-94).  This opinion is an age-old reference maxim:  Give the information asked for!  And don’t insert personal opinion.

Here, though, is another aspect highlighted that is slightly different from that age-old maxim.  We may, like a good reference librarian, not seek to alter a person’s attitude, but we may be more prone to judge it if we do not agree with it.  It is very important to realize that that sense of judgment will be felt by the user, whether or not we actually say anything aloud.  This is why judging another is so destructive.  We certainly don’t change people in this way, and we set up a situation which is adversarial.  Because so much of this behavior may be subliminal, we may never realize (nor may our user) why we are having difficulty communicating.  The user is likely simply to feel that she “doesn’t like” that librarian.  And we will feel rejected thereby.  We need to give peace away, not judgment, and join with our users in a oneness that means that both of us have the same end–a satisfactory exchange that will give the user the means to find the information that she needs.  To give peace away in the exchange means that we honor the exchange; we see the relationship as an “I-Thou” relationship (as Martin Buber might say) (Buber, 1970) that is respectful in the extreme.  To do so may challenge us to greater acceptance than we normally know how to give, but it is a vlid exercise in accepting our fellowmen and women.

Remember, too, that the individual who holds a different political or religious opinion than yourself, even an opinion that feels (to you) morally objectionable, is truly a seeker in her heart.  The seeking may at times take a tack that seems contradictory to morality, but that is not for us to say.  Respect the rights of others in ways that you don’t personally take in your life.  Maybe you are wrong about your own values; or maybe you are simply actualizing a different set of values that are in no way better (or lesser) than those of your neighbors (and users).  As a librarian, it is likely that you place great value on the things of the mind–the intelle3ctual practice of book learning and greater education.  Try saying that to the sports figure on campus, who has won great kudos for his athletic ability and his point-scoring!  Society itself is more likely to reinforce his values than your own.  This small example illustrates the dangers of expanding one’s personal view to the whole wide world.

If we don’t judge, if we seek always to help, it is likely that from time to time we will enjoy a brief moment in time that indeed is existential in nature.  But we don’t have to subscribe to existentialism to recognize that the Now of a given reference exchange is all the time that matters.  If we don’t answer the question well right now, there is no other opportunity.  And we can’t answer the question well if we are judging it or its asker.  Step back ad let the library user show you the way; take your cues from him; and your answer will fall more in line with that library user’s real need.

THE PRESENT MOMENT IS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Let us explore the thesis that the present moment is a unique experience–never before met and never to be met again.  If the librarian keeps this fact in mind, she is less likely to be subject to burnout as she answers those repetitive questions.

The best way to approach the reference desk experience is to realize that you are “caught” in a series of moments of Now–a string of isolated moments in time that will never recur (Sartre, 1968).  This particular instant in time is all any of us have, but it is all too infrequently that we live in the present.  For the best reference service, it is essential that we try to let go of the past and the future (i.e., one might say the past reference question and any reference questions yet to come) and focus on the particular need directly in front of you.  This involves slef-awareness, which Charles A. Bunge suggests is the most important antidote to the “cycle of unhappiness and frustration in reference librarianship” (1984).

How does living in the present mitigate against burnout?  It is very, very helpful to recall that even though you might have answered this question (e.g., How do I find periodicals on the OPAC?) a thousand times, for the user it is the first time that he has ever asked the question.  Your job is to fall in line with the emotional tone that he has, to answer as fully as possible (but not so fully as to “lose” the user), and in terms that the user seems to be comprehending.  This requires much feedback from that user, and you should be attune to nuances of body language and eye contact that tell you if you are getting through at all.  (We are familiar with the “glaze-over” that tells us that we have lost him!  This is the just the most extreme example.)  If we are able to see the experience as unique for the patron and to focus on those aspects of the interchange that make it unique to you, then the interview says “fresh,” challenging, and not the kind of boring interchange that cries for retirement to arrive soon!  Remaining interested in one’s work is a primary way to avoid burnout.  It is only the stale and the stressful that moves us toward that undesired end (Miller, 1992).

Seeing the Now of reference service means that you will close off all past and close off all future during the moments of excchange with your user.  Practically-speaking, you focus ono her needs only, and you forget the details of what has just preceded, and you don’t look ahead to what will follow.  This makes for a real experience in the present, an experiment tailored to what your user needs most–not by theory what you think that she might need..  And, if the person appears befuddled, and unable to articulate what she needs, you quietly forgive the confusion and dodn’t hold it against her as you try to help.  You are patient in the moment, because you are not trying to get through it quickly to answer the next person in line.  Remember–just this one instant–to be lived through and enjoyed!  The future is only a string of these moments, and if each one in turn is handled well, the future will take care of itself.  This will make all the difference in keeping reference fresh and a new experience each time that you take a turn at the desk.

In order to live in the Now, a librarian must give undivided attention to the person before him.  All too often we resist this, and sometimes interrupt the user because we are pressed for time (or just impatient) and think that we have caught the gist of what he has to say.  (After all, we have answered this question before!)  Big mistake!  The best that we can sometimes do for another is to listen quietly, and not with the intention of just waiting out the words so that we can add some of our own.  Really listening takes practice, but the rewards for a reference librarian are many.  All the knowledge of reference materials in the world won’t solve a given  user’s problem if we give him books that don’t meet the precise need; hence, the importance of listening carefully to determine what that precise need really is.

I also counsel listening to one’s intuition in the reference encounter.  If you suspect that going on and on about a given source, even though it is the “best” one, is not going to meet the need of this person, then stop!  You are probably picking up on messages of body language or facial expression that tell you that you are giving her more than she can absorb, or what she doesn’t really want at all!  I have learned that the user usually wants to be shown, at least, the source that has been asked for.  If the user comes in asking for The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, I automatically show it to her, but all the while I am plying her with more questions that might ensure that she actually gets the best tool to answer her research need.  This is an obvious response, to be made on a regular basis.  Intuition about the interview can take other, less obvious forms, though.  Learning to listen with the inner ear is eminently rewarding, and one will find that one gives the best service when this is the habitual modus operandi.

SUMMING UP

With these concepts in mind, it will be cleaer that the interaction between librarian and patron is essentially a partnership, and nothing good will come of something that is perceived in any way but equality between these two individuals, meeting in time in one moment.  We do out users a tremendous favor by “honoring” them as individuals, not seeing them as “just” so many reference questions.  When we truly see another, we are open to all aspects of their interaction to us, and thus we are ready to offer the best service because we are more aattuned to the whole of the encounter.  We are leaving aaside our personal prejudices, viewing the person with an open mind, and bringing to bear upon this moment all of our experience and education to date.  It should be obvious by now that an understanding of human nature can make or break the reference encounter.  Our sensitivity to these issues of partnership as equals and meeting in the present moment are a prime way to avoid the negatives that may pile upon us as we gain years of experience in the field.  Living in the Now is the most powerful way to keep one’s living fresh and untarnished by the wounds that come upon just by living in this difficult world.  Carry a bit of optimism with you as you go about your reference desk duties, and see if it doesn’t rub off on your users, your colleagues, and yourself as well.  Above all, keep humanistic your experience of reference by concentrating on the Now as pivotal to right living in this age of conflict-riden, technologically-oriented information.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, Charles (1995,  “The Exchange.”  RQ 34(3) (Spring):277.

Baker, Robert K. (1995), “Working with Our Teaching faculty,” College & Research Libraries, 56, 379-37.

Benham, Frances (1987), Success in Answering Reference Questions:  Two Studies.  Metuchen, NJ: Scarerow Press.

Braun, Carl (1977), “The Reference Interview,” Ohio Library Association Bulletin, 47, 11-14.

Buber, Martin (1970), I and Thou.  New York: Scribner.

Bunge, Charles A. (1984), “Potential and Reality at the Reference desk:  Reflections on a ‘Return to the Field,'”  The    Journal  of Academic Librarianship, 10, (3), 128-133.

Burton, Paul f. (1990), “Accuracy of Information Provision: The Need for Client-Centered Service,” Journal of Librarianship, 22, 201-215.

Cummins, Thompson R. (1984), “Question clarification in the Reference Encounter,” Canadian Library Journal, 41, 63-67.

Fine, Sara F. (1995), “Reference and Resources: The Human Side,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 21, 17-20.

Gothberg, Helen (1987), “Managing Difficult People: Patrons (and Others,” The Reference Librarian, no. 19, 269-283.

Hicks, Jack Alan (1992), “Mediation in Reference Service to Extend Patron Success,” The Reference Librarian no. 37, 49-64.

Johnson, David W. and Roger T. Johnson (1989).  Cooperation and Competition: Theory and Research.  Edina, Minnesota: Interaction Book Company.

_____and Edythe Johnson Holubec (1998) Advanced Cooperative Learning.  3rd ed.  Edina, Minnesota: Interactive Book Company.

_____and Karl A. Smith (1991), Cooperative Learning: Increasing College Faculty Instructional Productivity.  Washington, D. C.:  School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University.

Johnson, Roger T. (1994), “David Johnson: A Leading Teacher of Cooperative Learning,” Teaching Education 6 (2) (Summer – Fall): 123-125

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier (1994), “Students and the Information Search Process; Zones of Intervention for Librarians,” Advances in Librarianship, 18: 57-72.

Lopez, Annette (1993-94), “Did I see You Do What I Think You Did?  The Pitfalls of Nonverbal Communication Across Cultures,” New Jersey Libraries, 27, 18-22.

Lucas, Peter (1993), “Customer consultation and Its Implications for Service Delivery,” Public Library Journal, 8, 53-54.

Miller, William (1992), “Breaking the Pattern of Reference Work Burnout,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 18, 280-281.

Neill, S. D. (1985), “The Reference Process and the Philosophy of Karl Popper,” RQ 24 (3) 309-319.

_____. (1984), “The Reference Process and Certain Types of Memory,” RQ, 23, 417-423.

Orgren, Carl F. (1994), “Cooperative Reference Service,” The Reference Librarian, no. 43, 63-70.

Pauli, Dave (1992), “Ignorance Is Hard to Admit,” The Unabashed Librarian, no. 85, 22.

Ross, Catherine Sheldrick and Patricia Dewdney (1994), “Best Practices: An Analysis of the Best (and Worst) in Fifty-Two Public Library Reference Transactions,” Public Libraries, 33, 261-266.

Sartre, Jean Paul (1968), Essays in Existentialism.  New York: Citadel Press, 1968.

Slavens, Thomas P. (1994) Reference Interviews, Questions, and Materials.  Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press.

Slavin, Robert E., Eric A. Hurley, and Anne Chamberlain (2003), “Cooperative Learning and Achievement: Theory and Research,” in William Reynolds, et. al., eds., Handbook of Psychology: Educational Psychology (7): 177-198.

White, Herbert S. (1992), “The Reference Librarian as Information Intermediary:  The Correct Approach Is the One that Today’s Client Needs Today,” The Reference Librarian, 37, 23-35.

White, Marilyn Domas (1981), “The Dimensions of the Reference Interview,” RQ, 20, 373-381.

_____. (1998), “Questions in Reference Interviews,” Journal of Documentation, 54 (4) (September): 443-465.

Williams, Karen A., Janet Sue Fore, and John Budd (1993), “Cognitive Processes of Reference Librarians,” Research in Reference Effectiveness:  Proceedings of a Preconference Sponsored by the Research and Statistics Committee, Managaement and Operation of a Public Services Section, Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association, San Francisco, California, June 26, 1992.  Chicago:  Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association.

The Felt Presence of God

ACIM Workbook Lesson 209 – for Thursday, July 28, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“I feel the love of God within me now.  (WB392)”

Reflections:

1 – God’s Love Felt

This passage for today is my most frequent prayer.  When I feel the love of God within me as a felt experience (a state described by Eckhart Tolle), I have all that I need to make it through the day.  We all must do our part to bring about this felt experience.  We need our quiet times at the beginning and the end of each day, if at all possible.

2 – Does God Ever Withdraw?

It is sometimes said that God withdraws, and this is an experience of the dark night of the soul that was described so vividly by the medieval saints.  (St. John of the Cross coined the phrase.)  When God withdraws, we are not to lament in silence, discouraged.  Evolution, according to Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) is not a “straight line,” and there will be times of greater and lesser experiences of God.  We need to continue walking the pathway.  The felt experience of God will return.

3 – Gratitude for the Felt Presence

On the days when we feel God’s love especially keenly, we need to express, at least inwardly, our gratitude.  God does not need our gratitude, but we do.  And we can have more and more blessings as we express more and more gratitude (from personal experience, not stated in ACIM).

4 – Feel God’s Love as We Walk through the Day

May we live a good day today.  May we feel God’s love as we walk through each hour of the day.  And may we not be heartbroken if some tragedy strikes.  God is not walking beside us, but is carrying us at such times (from an anecdote written by Hugh Prather).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I appreciate that You allow me to feel Your presence on most days.  I suspect that when I don’t feel Your presence, it is because I have distanced myself by being unconscious to my deeper being.  I pray for no dark night of the soul, though I recognize the value of such experiences.  I would not be “in extremis” in regard to living my life.  Having Your presence as an intimate part of my day ensures that all will be well.  Thank You.

Be with all of us today as we do the best that we know how for ourselves and our brothers and sisters.  May we return love for attack and anger, knowing that attack and anger are always calls for help.  May we give that help in the best way possible.

Amen.

Christ’s Vision

ACIM Workbook Lesson 164  – for Monday, June 13, 2011

Affirmation:  “Now are we one with Him Who is our Source.”

“Open the curtain in your practicing by merely letting go all things you think you want.  Your trifling treasures put away, and leave a clean and open space within your mind where Christ can come, and offer you the treasure of salvation.  He has need of your most holy mind to save the world.  Is not this purpose worthy to be yours?  Is not Christ’s vision worthy to be sought above the world’s unsatisfying goals?  (WB312)”

Reflections:

The things we think we want are often materialistic, and they would keep us from the higher values that we need to embrace.  This passage summarizes this theme.  We would look to Christ’s vision for us, and as we do so, we are healed.  We become whole.  And we are happy–not the least benefit that we will receive.

Salvation is indeed a treasure.  Many of us have surrendered to God at an early point in our lives, but now Jesus would have us go deeper, into the happy dreams that the Holy Spirit brings, and then on to Awakening itself.  Let us not thrush aside this glorious future that can be ours for the asking.  Let us ask today.

The pain of this world is indeed fleeting, and this pain does not have to turn into suffering.  When we turn to God, He lifts us above the fray of this world, and we know for the first time what salvation really means.

There is nothing in this world that has ever satisfied us very long, if it was truly “of” this world.  Real love is, of course, an exception.  And the joy that we have from God’s intangibles is real.  Hugh Prather made this point in one of his last commentaries.  ‘Projection makes perception,” as ACIM says, but this projection can be for God’s Way as well as our own.  Then, when it is God’s Way, we are joyous.  We rise above the trials of this world, the limitations that we will not be without–but when we are bade to rise above.  May we make a better decision today so that these trials can cease, peacefully.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would live the life You would have me live.  I would see with the vision of Christ.  If this is still beyond me, then I ask that today You bring this vision ever-closer.  I know that in asking this, I am asking only for what is already Your will for me.

Help me to be good to the people that I meet in my world.  Especially let me be good to those who are most significant to me.  If I cannot be good to my intimates, then there is little point in trying to follow the Your way.  It would be impossible, and I know that You have never ask me to do something that is impossible.  You know me better than I know myself.  Help me, today, to draw ever closer to You and Your will for me.  I know that Your will and my real will are identical.

Amen.

Only Be Quiet

ACIM Workbook Lesson 125 – for Thursday, May 5, 2011

Affirmation:  “In quiet I receive God’s Word today.”

Selected Passage:

“Only be quiet.  You will need no rule but this, to let your practicing today lift you above the thinking of the world, and free your vision from the body’s eyes.  Only be still and listen.  You will hear the Word in which the Will of God the Son joins in his Father’s Will, at one with it, with no illusions interposed between the wholly indivisible and true.  As every hour passes by today, be still a moment and remind yourself you have a special purpose for this day; in quiet to receive the Word of God.  (WB226)”

Reflections:

We resist being quiet.  As I have noted previously, Marianne Williamson says that we are addicted to the adrenaline rush.  May we start taking steps to reduce this addiction today.  The more quiet we observe, the more it will become our familiar state.  ACIM notes that we are meant to be perfectly “calm and quiet” all the time.  Not all of us are ready for this state of peace.  We still like drama.  But as we move toward Awakening, the interest in drama will subside.  Eckhart Tolle says that in his primary relationship, he and his girlfriend do not have drama.  What a goal to strive for!  (Eckhart is the individual who has written extensively about his Awakening and is now an international teacher.)

We do not always see illusions.  Intangibles such as peace and joy are real, and so projection does not always make perception in the false sense (discussed by Hugh Prather in The Little Book of Letting Go).  We can request today to be free of illusions, to see only the intangibles that are real.  And eventually the real world will arise briefly before our eyes, just before God Himself “reaches down” to lift us up in Awakening.

Reread the passage, and note the progression away from illusions.  The Word of God assures us that we will have a special day of quiet in which to receive that Word.  May we welcome it with our whole hearts.

Prayer:

Dear Mother/Father,

I pledge to be quiet today.  I pledge to let any internal or external dramas that occur on the horizon be silenced.  Help me to do this.  I will need Your help.

Be with me today, as always.  I ask to feel Your presence, and You hear this from me a great deal.  I need You to lift my head above the clouds that hide Your presence.  I need You.

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.