A Conversation with Loral Reeves, Foundation for A Course in Miracles

LoralReevesWelcome to the first of my individual interviews with the staff that teaches the academy classes http://www.facim.org/temecula-schedule.aspx at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Temecula, California http://www.facim.org/. Rosemarie LoSasso, Loral Reeves, and Jeffrey Seibert have all worked closely with Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick for decades. Their devotion to Ken and Gloria’s work and commitment to living A Course in Miracles mind-healing message of forgiveness shines in their teaching. They continue to present Ken’s material through the lens of their own forgiveness classrooms, truly teaching, to paraphrase the Course; that he did not die by demonstrating that he lives in them, and every one of us. I hope you’ll find their stories as inspiring as I have, and consider attending their transforming classes!

(Loral Reeves has worked as an accountant at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles since March 1989, and took over editing the audios of Ken Wapnick’s classes in 2003.)

Can you tell me a little about your life before you found the Course and the foundation?

I was actually born in Denver but we left Colorado when I was 12 and I grew up in Arkansas. I went to college at what was then Arkansas Polytechnic College and got a BS in accounting. When I was 27, in 1979, I moved to Oklahoma City, where I found the Course in November 1988.

Just to provide a little reflection on my own ambivalence, I bought the book at a Church of Religious Science bookstore. My aunt was with me and I was at the register and she said, oh, she had wanted to get that book, too. So I just turned around and gave it to her.

Good delaying tactic.

(Laughs) Yes. I thought, easy out on that one. But later that afternoon we were visiting a friend of hers and she was telling the story about how I had given her this book and the friend walked over to a book shelf and said, you know I’ve had this for years and I can see I’m not going to use it, so just take it.

Were you raised in a religious home?

I grew up in a born-again, fundamentalist home and, of course, began to figure out that none of that made sense. Maybe later than some people would, my college years probably, so by the time I bought the Course I was already going through the classic angry atheist phase.  I got the Course in November of 1988 and in March of 1989, I was in Roscoe. So, I’m really grateful that I kind of bypassed a lot of the groups that went astray. 

So obviously you knew right away the Course was your path?

The moment I started reading it! That first-person voice—it was like meeting an old friend. I still get kind of choked up when I try to talk about it because there was a familiarity that just went so much deeper than anything I could put my finger on.  Of course, a few weeks later, I was extremely excited because he was telling me that God did not create this world and that was just awesome.

Were you working as an accountant in Oklahoma City at that time?

Yes. I actually had hung out my own shingle and was practicing mostly a tax practice and I had so hit burnout. I was so ready to take that shingle down and do something different. Then the opportunity came along: The same aunt that I gave the book to handed me a newsletter with a notice from the Foundation for A Course in Miracles that they were opening their facility in upstate New York and looking for people to do housekeeping and things like that. They didn’t need an accountant but I sent my resume anyway and hired on in March 1989, in the kitchen at first. Later that year they needed some help in the accounting department and asked me if I could help. That’s how I got established in the office.

Were you also taking classes there? 

I was in the honeymoon phase when I went to the foundation. I don’t think I ever hit the bliss ninny phase with the Course but I did hit the honeymoon phase and I thought, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and maybe one day I’ll grow up and  be a teacher. But the first workshop Ken gave after I arrived was on Jesus and the message of Easter and I got through the first two sessions of that and realized how little I knew. I felt so humbled and so appalled that I would even consider teaching. It took me about three years to even attend another class; I was so shaken up.

What were you doing during that time?

I attended staff meetings and listened to his audio tapes and read all his books so it wasn’t that I wasn’t having any exposure. I’m really grateful that I went to a workshop so early on and realized how much I didn’t understand. Because I know there are a lot of people who think they do understand (what the Course is really saying) and then it takes them a long time to unlearn what they learned.

The foundation’s teaching center in Roscoe was before my time with the Course. Could you explain what it meant to work there?

Well, we lived on the premises. It was a residential facility and all of the staff also had apartments right there. We got a stipend and we didn’t have to pay rent and very often were able to have our meals in the cafeteria because we did have a lot of programs. It was a very nice arrangement.

How did your teaching begin?

This is the part of the interview where I’ll probably get uncomfortable because I have some past-life issues around betraying Jesus’ message. The staff began teaching by facilitating discussion groups in Roscoe. Ken would lecture and then we would team up in teams of two and lead discussions about his lectures. And I was so frightened every time. I remember once saying to Ken, I feel like I’m in the movie Dead Man Walking. And he said, well then, I’ll walk you over to class. He did, and even though it was comforting, that just seemed to make me even more frightened.

Looking back I’m sure it was also because of the material because I felt I had betrayed Jesus somehow in the past and it took Ken a while to help me realize that it was actually him I was fearful of betraying. That somehow I had it fixed in my head that if I became a good teacher then I had to kill him off. And it was based on this deep-seeded belief that I had done that to Jesus’ message in the past. And so he kept working with me, saying this is your opportunity to do it a different way this time and I’m going to help you. Because he was determined to help me, I was determined to do it. But I still got frightened and kind of pulled off from teaching for several years and didn’t begin again until we came to Temecula. In 2003, I began leading the Wednesday discussion group and I have been doing that since. I began teaching in the academies in the summer of 2009.

So that experience of yours around betraying Jesus/Ken is really reflective of the unconscious authority problem with God the Course says we all have?

Oh, yeah. Because it’s based on the belief that I have to kill the authority if I present myself as an authority. Of course, I had such love and respect for Ken that it just drove me crazy.

But it must have ultimately been very healing?

Yes. Probably the culmination of that was at the March academy, after Ken died.

To backtrack a little bit, (once I started leading the Wednesday discussion group) my week used to run from Thursday morning to Wednesday. I felt good on Thursday morning but as the week progressed I felt more and more anxious about the Wednesday class. But after doing it for 10 or 12 years I finally began to enjoy it and feel like I was sort of coming into my own and more comfortable. And then when I began teaching in the academies, the very first one I did, I walked out of that room feeling so happy and joyful. It was like I had finally stepped up and shared Jesus’ message and I had not hurt anyone in the process. And it has continued to be a very healing experience ever since. The beauty of it is when I’m able to set my ego aside and just be present to the class. And then I have to pause and ask myself, why don’t I allow myself this experience all the time?

Well, it shines through your teaching. It’s evident that it’s just coming from this giant heart. All of you, in the March academy, I experienced as just completely defenseless. And this last one in July, too. It’s really been beautiful and healing to witness. Your ability to convey this work so gracefully clearly comes out of your living the Course in the classroom of your lives. What does it mean to you to live this?

Well, it’s difficult to talk about because for me it is my life. And I talk about it some when I teach because I encourage people to make choosing Jesus as their teacher their first thought in their day and to think of that throughout their day. Early on in Roscoe, in conversations with Ken, he told me this story about when he was staying in the monastery. It was supposed to be a silent monastery and the monks were supposed to be contemplative and always being with God, but they had developed a kind of sign language where they were communicating with one another. The abbot had been speaking with Ken about it and actually went on a walk with him, deliberately, maybe, to encourage him, and was kind of complaining about the insincerity of the youthful monks who were not quite getting the spirit of the law, if you will. And he said; I want real monks. And Ken was saying that he wanted that sincerity, that devotion to living the work, in his staff—“real monks.”  I thought a lot about that, and ever since then my goal has been to become a real monk, if you will. It is a kind of commitment I have made to myself.And so, every day, every moment, I try to remain clear that this is my classroom, and take responsibility for my projections.

You said something that really struck me in the July academy about making our role as pupils of Jesus the most important thing. And I could hear Ken so clearly in that. 

Yes. Kenneth often talked about making the first order of business the idea that this is my classroom where I learn my lessons of forgiveness and may eventually remember God.

Do you have children, Loral? I’ve heard you talk about children in your classes and our children certainly are quite a classroom for us.

I have one son and he just recently started working here at the foundation. It’s very funny because he of course has been exposed to the Course for so many years. And he actually came out to be supportive of me because I was going through quite a bit of grief over Ken’s death. What he said then was that he had run away from this Course for 25 years and he finally had to accept that it’s his path.

How lovely. How did Ken’s sudden death affect your teaching? Did you all know you were going to continue teaching?

Well, before he died, Ken had spoken to me about whether I would be willing to teach in the March academy. He didn’t expect to be dying but he wasn’t sure he would be strong enough. And I know he said something to Jeff, too, and Rosemarie I think was out of town, but we knew she would join us and we agreed that we would teach the March academy. So, after he died, when it came time to actually do this, my grief was there, and my terror was there. And I thought; the only reason I’m doing this is because he asked me to. And I’m really grateful that he did because it was such a cathartic experience for me.

That was so clear to everyone, I think. And the faith to continue the foundation was also so apparent and reassuring.

Yes, because Gloria had said, I want to keep the foundation going, are you guys willing to teach the March academy, and we said yes. She wanted to keep making Ken’s material available and of course she immediately had 100 percent commitment from everyone on the staff.

What was so comforting to all of us at the March academy was the powerful sense that Ken was still there. In a different way, but still there. I think it was a big step forward for everyone. For anyone who wanted to join you all in that certainty.

I think it was the case for everyone involved in putting that academy on because it was extremely difficult for Gloria, probably the most difficult thing she ever had to do. And to try to support her and deal with our own shock and grief, it was quite a challenge. But I am so grateful we did it.

In a way Ken’s death seems to have challenged anyone who loved him and followed him to grow up with this Course, as he would put it.

Well, really the only way out of this grief is to recognize how firm my belief that something really happened is. The way to challenge it is to be willing to be shown something different. It’s a great motivator.

What I’ve noticed is it opened me much more to that real Love of Jesus always available to us you so beautifully described at both the March and July academies, that all-encompassing abstract Love. But it also terrified me. I had a little honeymoon after Ken died in which I felt his loving presence so clearly still with us, followed by some of the darkest, loneliest times I’ve had since I started working with this Course. I guess because of that idea of what does this mean for me? Where does that leave you when you’re not yet at the top of the ladder, unidentified with bodies?

You basically described my experience after Ken’s death.  I don’t know how else to describe it other than a dark night that’s been hovering ever since. I go in and out. Of course I do think that’s just part of the grieving process itself. But I remember listening to Ken’s CD Love: Dark Night, and Living Flame http://www.facim.org/bookstore/p-112-love-dark-night-and-living-flame.aspx   where he talked about Saint John of the Cross, and was teaching from Saint John’s poetry where he talked about this darkness. And Ken kept reminding us in this lecture that what he was reading had been written after the fact. And I got so much encouragement from that because there is another side to this, you can come out on the other side. So I am holding tight.

One of you at the July academy pointed out that it’s the ego’s last ditch effort to scare the hell out of us. When we come up against the realization that the Love I’m seeking is within me, than who am I?

Yes, exactly. And I think that it’s so important for us to finally get in touch with the depth of that fear and the intensity of our identification with our individuality. I remember in that same context waking up in the middle of the night and kind of lying there and talking to Jesus, talking to Ken, and basically asking why would I continue to choose this identity that makes me feel so much pain when I have had experiences of that Love and know it does not have to be this way? And then I found myself flashing through all of the various aspects of my life–my body, my psyche, my own identity, my son, my coworkers, the foundation–with the question, are you really ready to let this go? And I realized it was still so frightening to me to let this go. And that experience was very revealing to me because although I want to let it go, it’s familiar, and are we really willing to let go of the familiar?

In calling in the non-judgmental presence of Jesus and Ken to look at that, were you able to forgive yourself for not being ready?

It actually felt like that was the whole purpose of the exercise because the whole experience was so gentle. It was just this simple, not yet, and that’s OK.

Well, and you obviously had that experience and speak of your experience with this practice directly from the heart which is why it resonates with students, touches them in the heart. It seems like that’s the answer, to keep looking with that presence of Love beside us at the way we want to set it up, and then just riding out the painful resistance, staying with the process, even in our fear.

Exactly and as you go through these kinds of experiences one of the best criteria for determining which teacher you’re experiencing it with is asking did I experience it as gentle or as a kind of pushing myself to do better and judging myself for not doing as well as I think I should. Because that’s something I think everyone falls into.

And something that seems so hard to get out of when we’re doing it. I can remind myself that the love is still there but it sure doesn’t always feel like that.

Exactly. And sometimes it even seems impossible to remember that this is a passing thing. 

And when you’re in it, it feels worse because you know the love is there, you’ve experienced it, so it’s like grieving all over again every time you run away from it. 

Yes, it really is. And again, I think it’s all part of the process. I have a photograph of Kenneth and every once in a while I look at it and feel really saddened. And I ask myself why do I keep this photograph if I’m just using it to remind me that I’ve lost something, you know? And in answer, the thought that comes to me is that I can use it to remember his gentleness. Every time I look at it, I can remember that gentleness. And somehow that opens the door to letting me experience the gentleness. 

He always emphasized that. And then he had that playful quality, too, that effortless light-heartedness that always reminded us not to take ourselves and our work with the Course so seriously. I find myself sometimes suddenly, out of nowhere, reminded of that.

Yes. Also I think about those lines from the Course, “Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you” frequently, and I think, well I am certainly not demonstrating that you live in me because I am feeling so sad and you were always so happy, you always had a smile. And when I have those realizations, if I’m not careful, I start really judging myself. But I’m just reminded then to try to be patient.

I guess we wouldn’t be feeling so much defense if it wasn’t helping us ultimately get closer to that love.

Exactly.

What would you like people to know about the value of attending these onsite workshops? For me, it’s so helpful to listen to the three of you who have really lived this and made this the focus of your lives. It helps me deepen and strengthen my own devotion and commitment. And although I listen to Ken’s CDs constantly, there’s something to be said for the immersion quality of visiting the foundation where I’m forced to really give this my full attention instead of multi-tasking all over the place as I’m apt to when left to my own devices. And maybe you could share a little about the weekly class you teach, too?

Well the weekly classes started in 2001. Gloria was originally leading the evening class and they agreed it would be kind of nice to go through the workbook, take a lesson or two a week, and discuss the main theme. That is the class I teach, and we’re still doing it thirteen years later. We’re currently on lesson 189. (Laughs)

Elizabeth Schmit teaches the Wednesday morning class, and Jeff and Rosemarie alternate teaching the Thursday morning excerpts series. We’re taking a break for the summer, though, and I don’t know exactly how the schedule will look when we resume in September.

As far as the workshops, it’s hard to talk about the value beyond what you just said. I think what helps people in terms of what Jeff, Rosemarie, and I do, and Elizabeth on Wednesdays, is that people often put Ken up on pedestal–not that he wasn’t the authority we would all strive to become like, and he understood everything that people are going through–but people would relate to us just because we’re going through what they are. That’s the feedback I get.

What seems to happen in these groups is a feeling of forgiveness. We talk about what the Course teaches but even more about how to put it into practice and how to live it and people share personal examples. Somehow they feel this is a safe environment where they can talk about what’s going on for them without feeling like they’re going to be judged or condemned or hit over the head with a blue book. So that has been a wonderful experience for me, too, because sometimes these groups, when I’m struggling, have just been my lifeline.

For more information about upcoming classes offered at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles, including the upcoming three-day academy class “This Need Not Be,” August 17-19, 2014, and how to register online, please go to:   http://www.facim.org/temecula-schedule.aspx 

The Foundation is celebrating Christmas in August by offering a 50% discount on all books written by Dr. Kenneth Wapnick (print version only). Now is the time to add to your library or gift a friend as there will be no lower price this year! Shop for your English and Spanish-language translated bound books at our Online Bookstore. http://www.facim.org/bookstore/

The Foundation for A Course in Miracles could use our help as they continue to so gracefully teach and publish the mind-healing, life-altering work of our beloved teacher and mentor Ken Wapnick, who selflessly dedicated his life to helping us change our minds about the world and find our way home. You can express your support and appreciation for this ongoing work with a donation here: https://www.facim.org/bookstore/p-195-donate.aspx .

Here’s a new conversation with my friend Bruce Rawles, this time about my experience attending the July 2014 academy at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpDe2SoBVzY&feature=youtu.be.

Here’s a link to details about my ongoing Tuesday night class on the text here in Denver https://www.foraysinforgiveness.com/classes-events beginning in May 2014.

I’ll be speaking at the upcoming Miracle Share virtual conference in October. You can find out more and register here: https://www.foraysinforgiveness.com/miracleshare-org-2014-virtual-conference

HALF-HOUR, FORTY-FIVE MINUTE, OR HOUR-LONG MENTORING SESSIONS NOW AVAILABLE: Although A Course in Miracles is clearly a self-study program and the one relationship we are truly cultivating is with our eternally sane and loving right mind, mentoring can help remind Course students having trouble applying its unique forgiveness that the problem and the solution never lie in the difficult relationship, situation, behavior, health issue, etc., but in the decision-making mind. In every circumstance, without exception, we can experience inner peace and kindness toward all, unaffected by the seemingly random strife of a world designed to prove otherwise. By choosing to look at our lives as a classroom in which we bring all our painful illusions to the inner teacher of forgiveness who knows only our shared innocence beyond all its deceptive disguises, we learn to identify and transcend the ego’s resistance, hold others and even ourselves harmless, and gently allow our split mind to heal. Sessions are conducted via traditional phone or Skype (your choice). Please contact me to find out if mentoring is right for you before submitting a payment below. (No one is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.)

My good friend and gifted A Course in Miracles teacher and writer Bernard Groom has been posting beautifully written, heartfelt essays about living A Course in Miracles for years at http://www.acimvillage.com/. I found his recent, kindly right-minded contemplations there on the death of our beloved teacher Ken Wapnick deeply comforting! Bernard lives and teaches in France with his dear wife Patricia. You’ll find a wealth of information in French on his website http://uncoursenmiraclesenfrance.com/ including recorded talks available for purchase or free download: http://uncoursenmiraclesenfrance.com/audio/.

My dear friend and wonderful teacher Lyn Corona continues to offer classes at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center through her School of Reason for Course students and teachers. You can subscribe to her website http://www.schoolofreason.org/ to receive information about upcoming classes.

 Here’s another ACIM hangout video I did with my friend Bruce Rawles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yogj9ckTXbc&feature=youtu.be . In this one, we talk about our love for our teacher Ken Wapnick, a demonstration of kindness to one and all, and how we can honor his life and heal our minds by practicing and living all he has taught us!

My latest book, Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want is available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. If you read and find the book helpful, I would so appreciate you posting a brief (a sentence or two is fine) review on Amazon. 🙂

Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want, and my previous book, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness, are now also available from the ACIM Store: http://www.acimstore.com/default.asp.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you dear Susan for this interview with Loral.
    I sure will share this wherever I can.
    Love,
    Annelies

  2. Thank you, Annelies. I am so grateful to the staff for carrying on Ken’s work with such grace!
    Love,
    Susan

  3. Thanks for your efforts with these interviews, Susan; much appreciated and I look forward to more! 🙂

  4. Thanks, Bruce. coming soon!

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