Be still (just) an instant and go home!

Sunrise_redDrat, it was just no use! I snapped  off my car radio, delivering non-stop updates about the latest ways humans have destroyed themselves and others interspersed with coverage of the latest Republican presidential debate, hoping to return to the quiet center within, only to discover that Oreos TV commercial stuck in my head again. The one in which a tiny elf engages in a little duet with a red fox ornament, pondering the meaning of Christmas and their true selves and apparently finding it in the filling of an Oreo, just as I suspected all along.

I was picking up last-minute treats for friends and neighbors. The awareness that I had just enough time to purchase these items but not enough left to actually speak with, see, or God forbid, hang out with their recipients seemed, even to my wrong mind, well, just plain wrong! Worse, a person with the slipperiest of grips on self-restraint (OK, me!) had actually ingested and/or quaffed several of these gifts earlier in the week, necessitating this last-minute dash on the rutted, icy roads for which Denver has become justly famous, given the city’s commitment to allowing Mother Nature’s solar energy to melt side streets and sometimes main (in her own finicky time) following snowstorms like the one we had experienced four days earlier.

But now my thoughts drifted back toward a series of recent events I still had not found time to process. I had barely tucked the orchestration of another Thanksgiving dinner at our place under my belt (pun intended) when the troubling situation that appeared to have reared its ugly head a week earlier—the discovery that presentations I had committed to give to some 20 people at an upcoming, out-of-town, weekend A Course in Miracles Christmas retreat would now involve 37–clamored for the full attention of my so-called decision-making mind.

The previous weekend I had agreed to present at a weekly Sunday gathering at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center (where I also teach a regular class) in hopes that addressing the generally larger Sunday group might serve as a kind of dress rehearsal in form, if not content, helping to calm the jitters that already seemed to have hijacked my ever up-for-grabs sleep. But alas, I found my preemptive move foiled by an 11 a.m. Broncos game scheduled at the same time!

Apparently, even the freaking hometown football franchise had conspired against me, I silently moaned, as I caught myself robotically counting the attendees—14—trying to imagine 20 more, and later bitterly complaining to my imaginary inner Jesus (that symbol of the part of our split mind that remembered to laugh at the “tiny, mad idea” of separation from our indivisible Source) about the entire unacceptable situation. Explaining how relaxed I felt on Sunday, the lines between me and the students so reassuringly blurred, ego gagged and sitting in time out somewhere, easily allowing our right mind to speak through me without any attachment with 14 people, but 37?

Throughout my tirade, my imaginary inner Teacher sat playing with the snow globe I had given him last Christmas, holding it up to his holy eyes and watching miniscule, unique snowflakes descend over a tranquil, plastic, alpine village, downright amused.

“Are you even listening?” I’d asked.

He nodded.

“So what did I just say?”

“That the addition of seventeen bodies, most of them strangers—yikes!—is a real deal breaker.”

“Well, when you put it like that, it sounds … ”

“Completely insane?”

I sighed. “I was going to say daft. I have always liked that word.”

He smiled.

And I’m pretty sure I did, too.

But as the aptly named “Black Friday” of Thanksgiving segued into a frenzied weekend of purchasing and prepping for the impending holiday season; I grew increasingly anxious about my obligation to that additional body count. Why was it that, although I had vowed to put aside my deep fear of public speaking when I first heeded the unrelenting call to teach this Course and had been able, by and large, through continual asking for help from you know Who, to get myself out of the way now for six years in my regular classes, the slightest change in venue or audience could propel me back into terror? Why, why, why, I asked Jesus, again and again, as if the answer actually eluded me after all this time with the big, blue book, as he patted my back and uttered the same predictable phrase: “we’ve talked about this,” in the gentlest, most-loving of voices, of course, but still.

By Sunday night I had reached a fragile equilibrium, reassuring myself that I had cleared my calendar that week to make time for the final preparations that always made me feel better. I would hunker down, consciously choosing to look at my fear as it inevitably arose with our inner Teacher, and refuse to heed the ego’s dire forecast of ruin. And then, late Sunday night, I learned that the Friday night panel discussion of A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 182, “I will be still an instant and go home,” originally planned to be delivered by three of us teachers seated at a table, would, because of the additional attendees and room configuration, require us to stand at a podium.

Suffice it to say an ego meltdown of epic proportions ensued, obliterating the possibility of any sleep that night or much in the foreseeable future. I knew this hauntingly beautiful lesson inside and out, probably referenced it more than any other in my teaching and practice. And yet, as you may have experienced yourself more than a few times while trying to truly live this Course, reality abides in a galaxy far, far away from the decision-making mind seemingly eclipsed by a personal self that has partaken of the ego’s poison. All to secretly prove she really exists apart from God but it’s not her fault, it’s, well, in this case, quite clearly, the freaking podium’s!

Despite having worked in public, private, and nonprofit public relations and communications roles for decades, I somehow had cleverly managed to avoid standing at a podium all my life, and for good reason. There was that time in sixth grade, for example. I had been chosen to present the key to the new junior high to a visiting dignitary in a building dedication ceremony. I’d slept at a friend’s house in a neighboring town the night before and left my good shoes there, forcing me to climb the stairs to the stage before assembled parents, teachers, and peers in my new dress, fishnet stockings, and soiled sneakers. (My own parents, needless to say, could not hide their mortification.)

Or the image of the girl with a gaping hole in the calf of her tights called on a year later by a teacher who seemed likewise on the verge of a nervous breakdown to stand at the blackboard before, well, about 37 ruthless junior-high students, and draw a complete blank on how to make sense of x and y in a fractious world that, even back then, didn’t add up, much to the malicious mirth of her fellow students. (I could go on, and on recounting similar incidents—what self-respecting ego couldn’t?–but in the spirit of the season, will spare you.)

The irony that I longed to hide in a deep hole at the very thought of presenting a lesson directly aimed at revealing and comforting the frightened, exposed, vulnerable child within us all, convinced she has thrown away her parent’s love and is no longer welcome home, eternally damned to seeking for substitutes where they can never be found, was not lost on me. I knew the question and the answer resided side by side in a mind I had forgotten, but, despite all evidence to the contrary, not destroyed.

The next morning, weak and pale, I eschewed my usual meager allowance of caffeine so as not to further fuel my mounting anxiety and set to work prepping at a pretend podium, rehearsing my opening to my little dog who long ago gave up reacting to my cockamamie antics, and tried to imagine 74 eyes staring back at me. You know, friendly, non-judgmental eyes, not like those junior-high kids, teachers, and parents so many years ago. Right.

All week, as the ego’s 24/7 horror film fest spun wearily on and I tried to look at my real fear with my inner Teacher, often talked off the cliff when he seemed to have gone missing by a dear friend and superb Course teacher far removed physically and mentally from my dream drama. Who patiently, generously reminded me that it was OK to feel whatever I was feeling, to be kind to that frightened child within and comfort her. This was not about how I performed, after all, but about healing my mind and remembering my only, everyone’s only, real relationship with Jesus within, through which all our relationships are “made holy,” as the Course so poetically puts it. I took notes on our conversations to refer to as my attention continually veered back to the toxic airwaves of the ego’s filibuster of doom.

Somewhere in the middle of the fray, I vaguely recognized the same old underlying belief at play in all my relationships (seemingly since the beginning of recorded time) that if I just worked hard enough I might earn the favor of those around me. Or, more importantly, in this case, the benevolence of my inner Teacher; somehow persuade him to intervene in my behalf during the actual showdown between me and the podium.  It was a bargain I had made up like countless others, that he would support me if I suffered enough, that the retreat participants would thereby approve of me. Something I didn’t believe I possibly deserved without struggle, conflict, copious amounts of chocolate and sugar, and fearful fantasies of public humiliation excavated from my Pandora’s Box of guilty treasures.

On arriving at the retreat center on Friday and actually seeing the room in which our panel would soon speak, I relaxed slightly, thinking we wouldn’t need the podium after all. We could easily position the table so that people could see us. But later, as I sat in the back of the room watching and listening to a fellow presenter introduce Ken Wapnick’s brilliant chart (explaining the two levels on which A Course in Miracles speaks), I realized the podium really would enable the audience to see and hear us much more easily.  These students had come here (just like me, actually) to learn. They deserved the best possible experience. My ego kept arguing for my safer-seeming, seated alternative, my decision-making mind beating back and forth between the ego and right mind like a metronome.

And yet, I had vowed to try to look at this with Jesus, wherever the hell he had gone. To drop my neediness, however strong its call and “make it about them,” as Ken so stridently urged us to, instead of me. How could I possibly reconcile the need to honor my terror and the greater need to hear the Teacher of healing for all’s message so movingly described in lesson 182, that saw every one of us, victim and victimizer, as the same frightened child?  Traumatized by the seemingly vicious, repressed fantasy that we have shattered our union and now must cling to the puny safety of personal selves to shield us from an imaginary, punishing God, hell-bent on revenge. How could I reconcile the need of my fantasy self to hide and the need of every heart to heal? My anxiety skyrocketed as I realized it had come down to me or the podium, really, another way of trying to defend the “me-or-them” nature of the ego thought system. Even though I still yearned so intensely to off that freaking podium and run, the answer was clear.

As the terror increased over the next few hours to the point that I had to excuse myself from dinner, unable to eat or hear others over the ego’s raucous shrieks and vivid previews of personal devastation, dizzy and fearful of passing out, I nonetheless thought of that frightened child in me and you and every seeming one of us. Crying out for the comfort of the eternal Child within, which lesson l82 also introduces us to, the inner Child of our defenselessness that meets us in the intensely vulnerable condition we think we’re in. Disguising itself as an infant so as not to further threaten us; appealing to our parental instincts to protect and cradle him. Even though he knows our nightmare of overthrowing the Kingdom, the only home we have and need and are, had no effects, knows the only yearning of every heart to be cradled in his awareness of our uninterrupted, undifferentiated, all-inclusively loving oneness.

By the time I took the podium, I was apparently ready to concede. And I told them the truth. I admitted I had never stood at a podium before and realized I had projected a lot of guilt on it. It had become a special hate relationship that served the same ultimate purpose of all special relationships, as the Course and Ken Wapnick consistently reminded us. To prove I really exist apart from the one Love we are, but it’s not my fault, it’s the culprit du jour’s, in this case; the podium’s! But that was a lie, I said, and then went on to allow the lesson’s healing message to speak.  I didn’t have time until later to process the reality that the ego’s booming broadcast of certain annihilation, for reasons far beyond my embodied perception, had immediately ceased when I grasped the sides of that podium in my sweaty hands, as if someone had turned off a blaring radio.

Although I slept little that night, I nonetheless rose to grasp the podium again the next morning to consider with my fellow students A Course in Miracles Chapter 15, IX. “Christmas as the End of Sacrifice,” relating it to what I had learned over the summer about the real purpose of sacrifice as I struggled to process my sadness over my daughter moving to Seattle. Somehow trusting in a strength I couldn’t possibly understand, once more conscious of my imaginary Teacher standing beside me in seamless solidarity no thought of separation realized had, or could, ever really shatter. Not because he identified with any illusory bodies (or a dream world chock-full of them) invented as protection from an imaginary, wrathful God that recognized silly fantasies. But because he loved me, as he loved every other frightened child feeling so lost and alien here. And was willing, as always, to meet us in the condition we think we’re in until we were ready to follow him.

The next morning, my presentations done, following another sleepless night that no longer concerned me, I sat in a little meditation room in the retreat lodge, sipping a welcome cup of very strong Joe, and watched the sun slowly illuminate a steep hillside at the top of which perched a stone arch, deer from the property’s healthy heard grazing in silhouette. And I could see our Teacher, in my mind’s eye, framed within that arch, hand outstretched, smiling. I still wasn’t ready to join him in the dawning buttery light for more than the most fleeting instant in my imagination, but I knew he didn’t mind. And somehow, I didn’t mind either, trusting I would climb again when I was ready, take his hand, and follow.

Now, as I parallel parked my car in front of my house in Denver, Christmas errands, for the moment, at least, behind me, I could somehow see him still, standing inside that arch bathed in sunrise, smiling, patiently waiting. Ready at any moment to stand in solidarity with me and every frightened child, wherever we find ourselves, amid whatever battle we’ve cooked up, helping us sort truth from lies, stories of personal peril from the reality of our shared need to find our way back to a home that remains perfectly, presently, miraculously intact.

“The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come. He comes demanding nothing. No sacrifice of any kind, of anyone, is asked by Him. In His Presence the whole idea of sacrifice loses all meaning. For He is Host to God. And you need but invite Him in Who is there already by recognizing that His Host is One, and no thought alien to His Oneness can abide with Him there.” (A Course in Miracles text Chapter 15 XI. Paragraph 2, lines 1-7)

“You have not lost your innocence. It is for this you yearn. This is your heart’s desire. This is the voice you hear, and this the call which cannot be denied. The Holy Child remains with you. His home is yours. Today He gives you His defenselessness, and you accept it in exchange for all the toys of battle you have made. And now the way is open, and the journey has an end in sight at last. Be still an instant and go home with Him, and be at peace a while.” (A Course in Miracles workbook lesson 182, paragraph 12)

 

MY LATEST BOOK, FORGIVENESS: THE KEY TO HAPPINESS, has been DISCOUNTED FOR THE HOLIDAYS: http://www.amazon.com/Forgiveness-Key-Happiness-Susan-Dugan-ebook/dp/B00VF7L1X2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1447948816&sr=1-1&keywords=Forgiveness%3A+The+Key+to+Happiness, along with my second book in the forgiveness series, FORGIVENESS OFFERS EVERYTHING I WANThttp://www.amazon.com/Forgiveness-Key-Happiness-Susan-Dugan-ebook/dp/B00VF7L1X2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1447948816&sr=1-1&keywords=Forgiveness%3A+The+Key+to+Happiness

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The Foundation for A Course in Miracles has just published a new, hardcover, keepsake anthology of the complete Lighthouse newsletter articles, From The Lighthouse: To Look Upon Darkness Through Light Must Dispel It, by Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick. https://bookstore.facim.org/p-383-from-the-lighthouse-to-look-upon-darkness-through-light-must-dispel-it.aspx  I just received my copy and am thrilled to hold it in my hands. I believe all Ken’s students will likewise want to keep this treasure of a book close at hand, to savor often and return to again and again to connect with the peace not of this world embodied in its teachings.

This unique, beautifully bound collection includes Kenneth’s original introductions to each chapter as well as a general introduction he wrote with Gloria several years ago and a chapter added by Gloria containing the Lighthouse’s final issue, filled with deeply moving, inspiring personal tributes of love and remembrance to Kenneth from his many grateful students. The anthology also contains an index of Course references and a chronological index of articles.

The articles cover a wide range of topics, reflecting the Foundation’s view of the world at large as seen through the guiltless lens of the Course’s teachings on forgiveness. They “provide a window into how we at the Foundation have seen A Course in Miracles as a spiritual path, as well as our own development as a center dedicated to preserving and teaching its principles.”

It seems to me that Ken was speaking to all his students in these thematic articles seamlessly melding A Course in Miracles’ fundamental metaphysics and mind-healing practice, but he was also speaking to his family members at the Foundation on a very personal level.  I consider this book a crucial part of the Foundation’s legacy, an invitation to everyone who loves the Course, Ken, Gloria, and the Foundation to join the metaphorical “orchestra” of shared (over separate) interests (Ken often referred to) and intimately connect with the healing symphony of forgiveness we can’t hear often enough!

You can buy it here: https://bookstore.facim.org/p-383-from-the-lighthouse-to-look-upon-darkness-through-light-must-dispel-it.aspx

You can register for upcoming live and streamed classes taught by the amazingly gifted Foundation for A Course in Miracles teaching staff, who continue to communicate Ken’s teachings with such clarity and grace, here: https://www.facim.org/temecula-schedule.aspx. I really can’t recommend these classes more highly! These teachers continue to gently encourage us to bring the darkness of all we’ve dreamt up to hurt us (whenever we’re choosing to feel victimized and justified in victimizing others) to the light of the part of every mind that knows only our shared innocence and need to find our way home. Their classes offer us a safe, non-judgmental “space” above the battleground in which to allow the healing of our frightened minds. (And often laugh a lot, too! :))

The Foundation is pleased to announce the availability of two previously unpublished audio titles by Dr. Kenneth Wapnick. “Appearance versus Reality” and Forgiveness: “A Many-Splendored Thing,” are both available in CD, MP3-CD, and MP3 Downloadable formats.
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Here’s a NEW VIDEO discussion Bruce Rawles and I had about ACIM workbook lesson 303 “The holy Christ is born in me today” and other Course Christmas themes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_87PP7KPDA 

Here’s a NEW AUDIO I did a couple weeks ago with CA Brooks, 12Radio, on the last section of A Course in Miracles Text Chapter 15, “Christmas as the End of Sacrifice.” http://www.12radio.com/archive.cfm?archive=8D4FE4F2-26B9-4187-86BAEBC2998CE207 If we are willing to change the purpose of our relationships to learning to heal our minds about our guilty neediness (with help from the part of our mind that knows only our shared innocence and completion), he will teach us what ending sacrifice means and how to do it.

HALF-HOUR, FORTY-FIVE MINUTE, OR HOUR-LONG ACIM MENTORING SESSIONS 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 in the classroom of their lives 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 choose to 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. (No one is ever turned away for lack of ability to pay!)

The Denver-based School for A Course in Miracles (formerly the School of Reason), an A Course-in-Miracles teaching organization, has a beautiful new website: http://www.schoolforacourseinmiracles.org/, with information on great new and ongoing classes based on Ken Wapnick’s teachings.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Center for A Course in Miracles http://www.centerforacourseinmiracles.org/index.html, is an educational Center whose focus is to teach what A Course in Miracles says, address common misunderstandings, and help students develop a relationship with their internal Teacher, inspired and guided by the teachings of the late Dr. Kenneth Wapnick.

The Interviews page on my forays website been revised to make it easier to find and access interviews with Ken Wapnick and others including Gloria Wapnick, and FACIM staff teachers.

In this recent video Bruce Rawles and I discuss themes from my new book, Forgiveness: The Key to Happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vEbI3jH8Sk 

My good friend and fellow Course student, teacher, and author Bruce Rawles frequently invites me to chat with him on YouTube about the Course and Ken Wapnick’s teachings. He continues to compile lots of great ACIM information well worth checking out at ACIMblog.com.

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 ACIMvillage.com. Bernard lives and teaches in France with his dear wife Patricia. You’ll find a wealth of information in French on his website including recorded talks available for purchase or free download.

Comments

  1. Great article; super timely and applicable to all! 🙂

  2. laurie gillies says:

    Susan,
    I have found no other teacher (aside from Ken Wapnick) as helpful as you with your heartfelt posts each month. It is my honest opinion that I would be further behind in my understanding of what the journey actually and practically looks like if you had not found the courage to write what you write.
    Thank you ever so much!!!

  3. Thank you so much for your very kind, generous response, Laurie!

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