He dropped dead

(Here’s an excerpt from my first collection of A Course in Miracles forgiveness essays, Extraordinary Ordinary Forgiveness. :))

Cherry Blossom“He dropped dead,” said the stranger beside me at the local Japanese diner. He sat as if in prayer, leaning forward over the counter toward a woman who appeared to be the owner and clearly recognized him.

In my peripheral vision I took in the blur of his physical attributes: African American with gray-flocked hair, probably in his late sixties, a little overweight, eyes saucer-like at the tale of his friend’s sudden demise.

He clung to the Japanese woman’s fingers as she listened. His friend, another regular customer who had often sat right here beside him at this very counter had dropped dead of a heart attack a couple months earlier.

“You remember him?” the man asked.

“Of course.”

The friend never took care of himself. He wouldn’t take his blood pressure or cholesterol medication. He ate cheeseburgers. He would never walk anywhere.

In contrast, the man sitting beside me had lived a clean, healthful life since undergoing bypass surgery 25 years earlier. He stopped smoking and drinking, gave up meat. Although he went on at some length to share the steps he had taken to protect himself from dropping dead, too, he did not sound convinced.

“He dropped dead,” he repeated, speaking into the church of his steepled fingers.

The Japanese woman nodded.

“You remember him?”

“Of course.”

I had come here to work on a writing project that had suddenly stalled, mysteriously deprived of the nectar of inspiration that had kept it humming a long for a while. Once more deluded by the ego’s crafty ways that venue had anything at all to do with my connection to anything at all. As is often the case, I realized I had gone seeking my curriculum in the blank page only to find it sitting beside me.

Another, younger waitress set a bowl of rice and vegetable tempura before their regular customer; refilled his green tea.

“He dropped dead,” he told her.

The friend’s daughter had found her father lying in his apartment on the floor. He had been there for days–dead alone on the floor right where he had dropped for days. His daughter had called to see if the man beside me wanted her father’s car, an old BMW purchased during a mid-life crisis many years earlier. His friend had wanted him to have his car. He still couldn’t bring himself to drive it.

“You remember him?”

“Of course.”

I sipped my tea. It was hard to swallow. I had been studying the section of the Course called the “Obstacles to Peace” that explores our devotion to our physical and psychological bodies, the bodies we hallucinated when we accepted the ego’s lie that we had separated from our oneness and deserved punishment for our sin. According to this underlying myth at the foundation of A Course in Miracles, the repressed guilt we feel over our alleged crime combined with the continued appeal of our bogus individuality keeps us perpetuating a story arc of birth, physical and psychological pleasure and, ultimately, suffering and death that both horrifies and enthralls us. For months I had been watching the ego thought system, threatened by the Course’s truth, attack my body, hell-bent on proving its fearful reality. Even as I asked for help from my inner teacher, the part of my mind also currently activated in the stranger beside me sat in absolute shock that a person it loved could die. And, most importantly, that it’s own body that appeared to house its spirit might at any moment meet the same fate despite its best efforts to do the right thing.

I recalled an interview with a locally famous dance instructor I had conducted for a newspaper article I’d written. The dancer had grown up in Mongolia and escaped massacre by a warring tribe with his family only to end up in Europe imprisoned in a Nazi camp before American liberation and immigration to New York and eventually Denver. Despite the horrific trials of his early life, in our interview he kept returning to the death of his brother last year, followed by his own recent brush with mortality.

“He dropped dead,” he said, again and again. I had given him my fingers to cling to. “I almost died,” he said, over and over, speaking of his heart attack. His eyes looked like I imagined the man’s sitting beside me in the diner would look if I dared to catch them head on. Pupils like black holes. Confidence in anything and everything shattered.

How can a world exist without you? How can a world exist without me? The Course’s answer is always the same. What world? The dualistic world we projected when the mind split is no more real than the bodies we projected and continue to project to populate it. And yet, we so covet the idea of our unique identities, and so fear the fantasized retribution of a wrathful God we invented that we continue to believe in the vulnerability of the physical shell we seem to inhabit. No matter how much we read about and try to remember our oneness when confronted by a loved one’s death or our own catastrophic illness we cower in fear, and cling to our identities as if they could offer dear life, as if they could offer any life at all.

In the final section of the Obstacles to Peace Jesus tells us that our identification with the body, our paradoxical fear of and attraction to pain, is answered in the holy instant when we call on the memory of wholeness in our mind to help us look at the denied guilt we project on our bodies. Attacking another’s as I do when guilt surfaces and I believe my daughter or my husband have failed to meet my expectations, ignored my feelings, or deliberately undermined me, or attacking my own as I do through sickness, injuries, aging, and ultimately death. We can’t get out of here and home to God alone. We must look at the relationships seemingly in our face. We must recognize the underlying guilt over the one true problem expressing itself again in an attack on your shell or my own, and choose again for our right mind.

By watching our negative feelings arise day in and day out, moment to moment, and returning them to the light of the right mind, our belief in what your body seems to be doing to me, or my body seems to be doing to you or to me begins to fade. Eventually, we will stand hand and hand at the threshold of the oneness we never left, ready once more to allow the magnificence of our true nature. Completely certain that we give up nothing by disappearing into the one eternal Love, and instead find everything that seems to have been missing for such a long time in this dream of specifics that never has a happy ending.

The man at the counter beside me asked for wasabi and finished his lunch, staring out into the space that seemed to have claimed his friend, thinking about a car parked in his driveway he may never be able to bring himself to start. I wanted to ask about his friend, let him cling to my fingers if it would help. But a part of my mind still believes I don’t know him. I gathered up my pad and pen, paid my bill, plunged out into the cold, slipped into my car, and drove home.

(Please note: Because I have been busy developing new workshops and classes and will be taking a couple of weeks off mid-May to vacation and spend time with my family, I will be posting less frequently over the next month or so.) 

Here’s a link to details about a new Tuesday night class I am offering here in Denver https://www.foraysinforgiveness.com/classes-events beginning in May 2014.

I enjoyed talking with CA Brooks of 12 Radio May 2nd about making practicing the Course’s forgiveness the new purpose of our days. http://www.12radio.com/archive.cfm?archive=BF261942-1143-DC70-C4758C0D66D40C76  I will be joining CA as a regular guest on her ACIM show the first Friday of each month, 9 a.m., mountain standard time.

During  the month of May three of Kenneth Wapnick’s books are on sale at the Foundation for A Course in Miracles online bookstore: Life, Death, and Love: Shakespeare’s Great Tragedies and A Course in MiraclesParents and Children: Our Most Difficult Classroom, and Healing the Unhealed Mind. In addition, five Spanish translations of Kenneth’s books are also on sale: El perdón y JesúsDespierta del sueñoUn curso en milagros y el cristianismo: Un diálogoEl Mensaje de Un curso en milagros, and El Arco del perdón.

Now, when you buy on Amazon, you can support The Foundation for A Course in Miracles, too! Details here: http://www.facim.org/announcements.aspx

The Foundation for A Course in Miracles continues to offer illuminating classes taught by a talented, devoted, inspiring staff! I was so deeply moved and inspired by their presentations at the March academy, and can’t wait to return for more! Check out their offerings here:  http://www.facim.org/temecula-schedule.aspx 

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 harmless, and gently allow our split mind to heal. One-on-one, hour, forty-five-minute, or half-hour mentoring 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 dear friend and wonderful teacher Lyn Corona continues to offer wonderful new 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. 

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/. 

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 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 is also available at the Rocky Mountain Miracle Center in Denver, Colorado, where I teach weekly on Tuesday nights, takes up roughly where my last ACIM essay collection left off, and conveys my growing faith that no matter how wrenching, wild, or wacky the dream of our lives may appear, we always have a choice about which inner teacher we are looking and listening with: the ego, the part of our mind that believed the “tiny, mad idea” of separation from our source had real effects. Or the “right mind” that remembered to gently smile at the bizarre thought of it. If you’re thinking about buying a book and live in Denver, please consider purchasing a copy from the RMMC to help support their great work.  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.


  1. We certainly get plenty of opportunities to look at … and forgive ourselves for … our mistaken investment in separate identities housed in space-time ‘need machine’ garb, don’t we! I just learned of another friend’s passing and also arrived this weekend in Calif. to assist my Mom in her recovery from a fractured hip; bodies are so high maintenance! … and exactly the ‘fire-fighting’ strategy ego has in it’s outer shield of oblivion to keep us mindless. Thanks for another reminder, Susan – to be gently vigilant in favor of our Inner Kindness Teacher’s counsel, and dropping ego’s misinformation campaign of judgment, grievances and victimhood! 🙂

  2. Hi Bruce: Body’s sure do serve their purpose of keeping our imaginary flight from eternally invulnerable oneness real, unless we choose to change their purpose to learning we are not bodies but one loving, forever safe mind! Wishing you and your Mom all the best. I’m sure your presence is a great comfort to her!

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